Batwa Honey

Ark of taste
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Batwa honey is produced in the southwest of Uganda by various Batwa communities. The Batwa are one of the original indigenous peoples of Uganda, and used to live in several mountain forests (Echuya Forest, Mgahinga Forest and Bwindi forest). These forests became national parks and thus the Batwa were forced out.

When they were still in the forest, honey was one of the most important elements of their lives. They were not producers but rather gatherers. They used to climb the trees and gather the wild honey in the top of the trees. This honey is one of the most sacred foods of the communities as a sign of wealth and other values. For example, it is often part of the bride’s dowry.

As a food, it is a favorite, due to the incredible sweetness of the wild honey that is used as sugar. Honey is also an important medicine, giving them a strong immune system, and is also used as an antidote, antiseptic for wounds, and a cure for ulcers.

The honey has a very important economic role as well, being the most important product for the Batwa to trade with the neighboring communities in order to buy products, such as sorghum. Sorghum is indeed particularly important because it is used to produce the “Entulile”, a traditional beverage made from fermented sorghum and honey. This drink has a strong cultural place in the Batwa communities: it acts as a cement of the Batwa brotherhood. Indeed, Entulile is the favorite drink during the ‘beer party”, during which they discuss, dance and create unfailing relations after blood sharing.

Since they had to leave their forests, the Batwa began to produce honey by domesticating the forest bees. This way, they put the traditional Kigezi beehives, made from bamboo, in the forest during the flowering time—around May and June—and retrieve them during harvest in August. They produce a very thick honey, very sweet, with a smell of banana.

However, this honey is at high risk of extinction due to difficult access to the forests for the communities, as well as the discrimination they face. The national parks have not only forced out the Batwa, but in most cases, they are denied the access. Without access to the forests’ biodiversity, it becomes harder and harder for them to produce the best quality honey. But without doubt, the biggest challenge that the people face is the discrimination of the neighboring communities who steal, harvest or even burn most of their beehives. These two factors have demotivated most of the Batwa beekeepers. Thus, one of the pillars of the Batwa culture is slowly disappearing, like the rest of the Batwa culture.

It is fundamental to try to safeguard the honey production of the Batwa, as a cultural foundation but also as a potential income generating activity, which could give better standards of living to the communities.

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Indigenous community:Batwa community
Nominated by:Vincent Lagré