Our community is smallest group of Historically Marginalised People (HMP) previously known as the Batwa in Rwanda. With an estimated population of 25,000 to 30,000 people, the historically marginalised people face unique challenges and uncertainties related to socioeconomic deprivation, high unemployment and underemployment, social discrimination, and acute political marginalization. The Batwa are believed to be the original inhabitants of the Great Lakes of Central Africa.
The equatorial forests were their homelands, providing them with sustenance, medicine and sacred sites. Over the course of several decades, the HMP were gradually evicted from their traditional lands owing to a combination of deforestation initiatives, conflict leading to violence, and conservation in the name of development. The remaining forest dwelling Batwa of what are now Volcanoes National Park, Gishwati Forest, and Nyungwe National Park were expelled as recently as 1994 without consultation, compensation or adequate remuneration.
Pygmy is an academic term designating the small-stature hunter-gatherer and former hunter-gatherer peoples of the equatorial forests and adjoining areas across Central Africa. This term is widely used by non-Pygmy people, but only rarely by Pygmies themselves. Outsiders often use it in a derogatory way. Most Batwa of the Great Lakes Region dislike the term because they only hear it in the context of verbal abuse from neighbours.
The HMP see themselves as a colonized people: first by agriculturalists, then by pastoralists in many areas, and finally by Europeans. In certain areas HMP fiercely defended their ancestral forests against the encroachments of these invaders, but today nearly all have seen their forests disappear or their rights to live in them denied. Each colonizing group put increasing pressure on the original forest, turning most of it into farmland, pasture, commercial plantations and, more recently, protected areas for game parks and military exercises. Although the Europeans have left, decolonization remains an issue for the Batwa.
Today, the Historically Marginalised People (HMP) survived by making traditional pots. It poorly reflects the activities of most HMP ‘potters’ today, but must be understood in the context of the Batwa’s history of adaptation as immigrant farmers and pastoralists steadily colonized their forest habitat. Through AIMPO’s programme, we help community to transform this traditional pottery into ceramic pottery. We are engaging them in agricultural activities through buying land for them and encompassing communities into cooperatives. Due to limited support, we have chosen to operate in five (5) districts of Rwanda which are Gicumbi , Musanze, and Nyabihu Districts (Northern Province), Bugesera and Nyagatare Districts (Eastern Province).