Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tourism in Ntungamo District- Bugona Tree

Bugona tree (Ekiti Kyomugabe/Eky’Omugabe)

The tree is found in Bugona I village, Kashenyi parish in Ngoma Sub County 20km east of Rubaare Township.  The tree of the ficus species that is locally known as Omukunyu was planted by the king of Rwanda (Mwami as the title) after he had defeated the Omugabe of Ankole kingdom as a sign of marking the territories. The existence of this tree can be evidenced by the existence of the extensive root system some which stretch as far as 100m away from the tree. It was planted with other trees; one in Kyamugaashe (Ntungamo district) and another one in Masaka district when he had come from Entebbe. These trees were to represent that the Mwami had conquered the areas of Buganda, Ankole and Mpororo. The king also conquered other areas like Kigezi and in Congo in the area occupied by the people called the Banyamurenge.

The king used one of his servants called Nyindo wa Kagyezi from Ruhaama who brought the plant from there before the soil could dry and it’s believed that the king put there the leaf of the plant and it started growing. After the death of the king, the funeral rites were headed by queen who was known as Muhumuza and among other places the rites were performed from this tree.

 Among the people who came for the funeral rites, it is only the family of Rwabugiri that survived but the rest disappeared from there and even the white cow they had brought and even the ones that remained were covered by something on their faces that could not enable them see. They took back what they brought and went to Rwanda. Since then, the tree has been regarded as the one with the healing powers and boys and girls always go there before they get married for consultations and blessings and this has been maintained up to today.

But because the king had many wives, Muhumuza and her son (Biregyeya) were persecuted by Musinga and his mother (Kanjogyera) and they came and settled in the place known as Rutobo in Ngoma. There were the hot springs that are believed that it is where Muhumuza used to heal the people and the healing water that comes from the stone is still there up to today.

She also planted another tree called Rugomero that also has the healing powers. Mr Karamba, who is the caretaker, asserts that because they are holy places, the sinners are not supposed to go there as he says that if you pick the money or milk that is offered, you can become mad. Nobody can fetch firewood from that tree apart from him as he has to first perform some things and that firewood he fetches can only be used for lighting the fire there but not for taking home. He adds that if it happens that a person unknowingly picks firewood from there, he/ she can be beaten by the things you can not see or touch. 

The site is an active shrine of a religious cult known as the Balangi who like the Bachwezi cult gather around the tree on Saturdays for day and night prayers. The lemon grass is spread at the roots of the tree and the fire place is there where the divine worshipers make fire because sometimes they spend nights there. 

The other interesting features at the place is the Omukunyu tree itself that forms a good canopy which is all around the place forming a good shade for the worshipers as some of its branches touch the ground ( see picture 1 above)

The stories on how the tree came into existence are told by Mr. Karamba who is acting as the current caretaker of the Bugona Tree and the cultural importance of the tree. The instructions are also given by the divine worshipers like not harvesting firewood from the tree as he can help them light the fire.

When the people come at the site for worshiping, different rituals are performed and offerings given in terms of milk, different harvests and even money.

The values Bugona tree
Traditional healing is the main cultural importance of the site because people from different places from the surrounding communities and others from Rwanda come to the tree for the blessings and healing as it is believed to be having the powers that were left by Muhumuza (the wife of Umwami).

The tree has existed up to now because of the cultural importance or value that is attached to it and the respect given to is by the surrounding communities as it is taken to be sacred. Because of this, the tree has managed to survive the destruction by the cattle keepers and even firewood collectors.

The site has a remarkable research value as little information has been collected about it and little research done about the existence and the cultural values of the place as well as the ownership and caretaking of the place.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Nyero is found 9 km west of Kumi town in Kumi district in Eastern Uganda. It is an early Iron Age site and the rock paintings are found in 3 rock shelters, some of the paintings represent canoes, animals and other art impressions.

The visitor arrivals at Nyero

From the table above, the number of the visitors to Nyero has been increasing slightly since 1999 fort example the years that have the complete figure show an increase from 466 in 2000 to 304 in 2006 up to the month of October that indicate that the numbers may have been higher that the ones indicated here.

The results also show that there is an increase number of local people that go to the place which is an indication that the people surrounding the place have got to appreciate the attractiveness of Nyero and want to discover the uniqueness of the rock art in the area. This is very important in a way that it helps the area to keep receiving the visitors even the low of off-peak seasons. The figures show that the local people contribute highly with the figure over 2000, followed by the foreigners with the arrivals of about 700, the schools children with about 120 and lastly the people from the rest of the East African countries (about 50).

The results also show that there are few schools and school groups that go to visit the site as the numbers are still very low as the highest number was in 2005v that received about 50 school children and the low ones were in 2000 with the number of about 9.

The table also shows that there are few people from the other East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi as they show a very low number of the arrivals. For the period indicated in the table, only the highest number was in 2000 when the site received about 27 visitors.

Though there has been an increase in the visitor arrivals at Nyero, the numbers have been fluctuating between the years for example the numbers from 466 in 2000 to 410 in 2001 that shows a decline in arrivals. The figures then rose to 431 in 2004 and then an increase to 482 visitors in the following year.

The study also indicated that most of the foreign tourists were from the United Kingdom, followed by the Germany, then United States of America, Denmark, Ireland, Italy and other countries most especially from the European countries. The rest of Africa also indicated the low visitor numbers with few from Nigeria and South Africa.

Comments and recommendations from the visitors
From the table above, the local people have the higher arrivals to the site but the study showed that most of the local people are from the surrounding areas of Kumi, Soroti and Mbale districts while the rest of the country has few people that go there. This therefore indicates that the place is not well known to other people that calls up mass advertising and publicity.

There is a need for the government to integrate such things as cultural and natural heritage into the school curriculum such that the children can learn more about them and the ways on how they can protect the national heritage. The low turn up of the school children may be due to the fact that it is not very relevant to what they study.

There is need to target the East African countries to come to the site as the figures show that the people are still few. This can be done by the tour operators and travel companies through including the site in designing the itineraries and in the brochures as this can also help during the off-peak seasons.

The majority of the visitors urged that the place needs to be preserved as some were saying that it should not be let to die, it should not be destroyed, it should be kept safe and preserved for future generation.

Some of the visitors commented on the site not having the site office that can provide enough information to the visitors and enforcement of the low and easy protection of the site.

There is a need to rehabilitate the area and good maintenance in terms of cleanliness and slashing the whole place

There is a need for directional signage at the site such that the people can easily move allover the place and that the marks should be put at the entrance to help as people get in.

There is need to improve on the facilities for the visitors like the toilets and even their maintenance in terms of cleaning. Other facilities that are needed at the site include the areas where the visitors can sit and have rest. This therefore means that the area needs the shade for sunshine.
The other facilities needed at the site include camping facilities, and refreshment facilities like a canteen.

More information is needed to be provided top the people who visit Nyero and even the ones that may need to visit as some visitors to the site were asking how old the paintings are an indication that there is no information provided about the site. This should be the work of the ministries concerned like the Ministry of Tourism Trade and Industry, Uganda Tourist Board and the tour operators.

More restrictions are needed in form of the warnings like the ones restricting the visitors from touching the rocks with their hands which may rub off the paintings after a period of time.

There is need for the government support in terms of providing the funds for the maintenance of the place and paying the guide who works at the place. The government can also help in the provision of the promotional materials like leaflets and brochures.

More activities can be introduced around the place like rock climbing, nature walks and bird watching that can bring in bigger numbers of the tourists in the area hence enriching the welfare of the people around the area.

The fees should be put in place such that the money collected can help in the maintenance of the place and payment of the guide/ caretaker that is at the place.

More protection of the area is needed at the site as the areas needs fencing and to be marked to protect it from human interference and activities.

Kampala City

Mutesa I, the Kabaka (king) of Buganda, had chosen the area that was to become Kampala as one of his favorite hunting grounds. The area was made up of numerous rolling hills and lush wetlands. It was an ideal breeding ground for various game, particularly a species of antelope, the Impala (Aepyceros melampus). The origin of the word impala is likely from the Zulu language in South Africa.

The city grew as the capital of the Buganda kingdom, from which several buildings survive, including the Kasubi Tombs (built in 1881), the Buganda Parliament, the Buganda Court of Justice and the Naggalabi Buddo Coronation Site. Severely damaged in the Uganda-Tanzania War, the city has since then been rebuilt with constructions of new buildings including hotels, banks, shopping malls, educational institutions, hospitals and improvement of war torn buildings and infrastructure. Traditionally, Kampala was a city of seven hills, but over time it has come to have a lot more.

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