Culture, health and farming at Kigezi centre

Saturday October 5 2019

Artefacts on display at the Home of Kigezi museum.

The Home of Kigezi museum. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI | NMG 

BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI
By BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI
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Located five kilometres south of Kisoro town in Kisoro District is Home of Kigezi, a social enterprise that offers visitors an opportunity to connect and gain insight into the life of rural Ugandans and their families.

The cultural centre sits on one acre and has a museum showcasing culture and natural history, a permaculture garden, a restaurant, craft shop, eco-friendly accommodation and camping.

The cultural museum holds Kigezi traditional artefacts like hunting tools, musical instruments, a health and healing “pharmacy”, blacksmith and iron forging tools, harvesting tools, baskets, base metals like gemstones and quartz, among others.

At the organic garden, local artisans will teach you how to make traditional posts, weave baskets and mats and carve wood. You can also go bird-watching or take a nature walk. You can hike to the Kigezi Monument Site on the hill where the name Kigezi originated.

“This is a living culture and natural history museum. We promote the culture of Kigezi and the conservation of nature. We feel there is a big gap between natural resources and community conservation efforts.

“We want people to conserve our resources as well as restore the natural beauty that has been lost,” the proprietor of Home of Kigezi, Gerald Nkusi, said.
“People don’t know much about conservation. When people think of food, they grow Irish potatoes and beans. They don’t think of conservation or climate change adaptation to grow food in a changing climate. So, if we engage them in sustainable conservation, or climate-smart farming methods, they can practice conservation farming,” he added.

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Nkusi was born on March 20, 1987 in Kisoro. He attended Trinity College in Kabale District for his A-levels.

Nkusi says he started the Home of Kigezi to promote and revive his dying culture and the environment amidst the robust growth and increase in population.
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What motivated you to set up the Home of Kigezi museum?

My love for nature, my heritage, unemployment and poverty were my inspiration. I have a passion for culture and conservation. I teach young people about climate-smart nutrition focused on gardening.

Way back, people lived in harmony with nature, understanding the relationship between culture and conservation.

What should a visitor expect to see at the museum?

The garden, where indigenous traditions and practices are used to grow herbs and indigenous trees. The small museum with relics and recycled objects shows how people used to live in the area and how human impact has devastated the environment.

There are volcanic rocks, reeds, fibres, timber and half decayed tree stumps. The diversity in such a small space allows time to explore and observe the intricate details. Smell the plants, feel the different textures, hear the buzzing bees and birds singing and see the explosion of colours and natural beauty.

This place is filled with opportunity to learn, to co-create, to practice, to integrate and to understand. Visitors can also learn traditional skills like herbal tea making and weaving mats or baskets.

What kind of visitors come here?

We receive local school children, people from nearby communities, visitors to Kisoro and Kigezi region, as well as researchers and international visitors.

What other services do you offer?

We have a restaurant and gift shop, permaculture gardening and training, community walks and talks, and adventure and wildlife treks.

How do you combine the experiences of a cultural museum with organic farming?

These two activities support each other, so we hope to instil behavioural change about how our actions impact others and our environment.

We celebrate and re-introduce cultural skills and practices that empower families financially as communities feel less pressure to migrate to the big urban centres for economic survival.

Family well-being through improved nutrition and basic medical care at the home herbal “pharmacy” allows communities to spend less on healthcare.

What is the link between cultural and environmental conservation?

Our conservation approach to celebrate and create local responsibility to preserve cultural traditions is gaining momentum, with locals and visitors taking part in the activities.

Ethical and eco-tourism fundamentally re-examine the relationship between the visitor and the visited and their impact on the environment.

Kigezi used be the coldest region in Uganda with few cases of malaria, but now things have changed. Is climate change affecting this region?

The clearing and degrading of the environment for settlement, agriculture and other uses has left much of the community land and the hills with no green cover. This has resulted in a rise in temperatures.

Because of the surrounding rainforests, there are still cases of malaria though this is slowly being contained by the ministry of health and partners.

Do you have plans to expand the museum?
With access to the right partners, we have plans of continuously learning, adding value, innovating and widening our coverage, and making our information more available.

What is the tourism potential of Kigezi?

Kigezi is a growing tourism magnet for both Uganda and Rwanda, so there is a need to sustainably conserve the environment and offer more services to accommodate the increasing number of locals and visitors.