Culture is preserving the Mt. Rwenzori Forest National Park
A scenery with color most of it green blending into the blue skies, a challenging terrain, a spectacular view of nature working in sync , warm and welcoming people; the Rwenzoris surely must be the crown of the pearl of Africa.
One can tell through observation that the areas at the foot of the great Rwenzoris are rural and the people there in live a modest life, not many meet the daily expenses of an average Ugandan. The admirable part about these people is that they are satisfied and grateful for what they have.
Majority of the locals in Kyanjuki village located Kilembe are Bakonzo and they work at the Rwenzori Trekking Services (RTS) Hostel as porters, tour guides, cooks, and hospitality managers while some work directly in the forest and on the mountain to ensure that the trails are in good condition, and that forest is in good condition as well.
Commonly known as uncle John to the children here, Managing Director of Rwenzori Trekking Services John Hunwick says, “The Company employs a good portion of the population of the people who stay in communities around the mountain.” He adds that RTS is very considerate while they employ people. For example he explains that during school time, the company refrains from employing students because they are expected to be at school. It is during this time that their parents are employed so as to fend for their families. He also notes that they are strict and ensure they register all their workers especially porters so that they do not employ people under the age of eighteen but also to ensure safety for the clients. The porters are very energetic, trustworthy and cheerful young men and women.
Back in the day, communities deprived women of climbing the Rwenzori for cultural reasons. According to Uganda Wildlife Ranger Solomon Mbusa, it was believed that women would easily leave dirt on the mountain in case they got their periods. “It was a taboo because many believed and still believe that the mountain is a sacred place; a dwelling place for their gods but this has since changed.” Mbusa says.
Mbusa continues to elaborate the cultural importance of the Rwenzori Mountain. “UWA recognizes the cultural significance of the Rwenzori to the communities and outsiders alike. As such we have designated particular spots in the mountains for cultural purposes.” He says.
UWA encourages tourists who visit on such purposes to come clean and explain the reason of their tour. Otherwise, they do not allow people to carry animals and other ritualistic material up the mountain without clearance.
The belief that there are gods in the mountain is one of the reasons the communities around are playing a pivotal role in conserving the forest. Many locals believe that if the mountain is not in good shape, the gods will be angry. In these communities, the well being of the forests and the mountain is a shared responsibility.
Anyone planning to trek this great mountain is allocated an UWA ranger, a guide from RTS and a porter. All these people should be aware of the purpose of your visit and aware of what you are carrying in your luggage. They equip you with knowledge about the forest and mountain but above all ensure your safety while you manoeuvre through the park.
Source: Capital Radio Uganda