Back in June I met up with Henry Ngabirano the Director of the Uganda Coffee Development Agency in Kampala. Henry asked me what I could to do help increase the income of coffee farmers in Uganda and whether I would be willing to share my experience from a project I am involved in Ruhanga SW Uganda.
I suggested that perhaps the Agency would like to link coffee to tourism and have a set up where farmers could take in paying guests who would also help out on the farms. Henry liked this idea very much and asked if I could help them develop it. As luck would have it I already had knew a Tourism Expert Carmel Dennis who was looking to develop new products for her customers. On my return, I put this idea to Carmel and she too liked it very much. We therefore agreed to travel to Uganda during the last week of November 2011 so that Carmel would get firsthand experience of the country
On arrival in Uganda we met both officers from the coffee development Agency as well as the chair of the Uganda Tour Operators and several hours later it was decided that the best place for us to begin our fact finding mission was in Kisoro SW Uganda the home of the Mountain Gorilla Organic Coffee Estate Association.
In Kisoro we were met by Julius Wetala Project coordinator at Mountain Gorilla Organic Arabic Coffee Estate Association and we learn that his post is funded by USAID with a view to encouraging an increase in organic coffee production from this region.
Kisoro is on the border of Rwanda and D.R Congo; it is incredibly beautifully with it rolling hills and mountains and rises to 6500ft above sea level. It is densely populated and the environment is under threat from the ever growing population that is encroaching on forests and wetlands so much so that landslides have become a common occurrence. It is mostly a farming community and the main crops grown here are Coffee, Irish potatoes, beans and Cabbage. Farming is happens on small holdings as opposed to commercial large scale farming and some small holders with larger plots of land keep livestock too.
Tourism is very important to this region due to the presence of Mountain Gorillas in both Bwindi and Mugahinga National parks.
We headed out of Kisoro town where we were introduced to David Rwesebura a member of the Mountain Gorilla Organic Coffee Estate Association. Mountain Gorilla Organic Arabic Coffee Estate Association is a membership owned based Association consisting of 1196 coffee farmers living in Kisoro District. The Association is registered as a Community based Organization (CBO) by Kisoro District. The Association was formed in 2004 and specializes in Organic shade Arabica coffee that is exported to Urthcafé Foundation of California, USA.
David is in his late 60’s as far as I can work out and holds a City and Guilds Diploma in Horticulture. We learn that he had moved away from Kisoro to Kasesse Western Uganda where he had built up a substantial commercial farm but it had been taken of him when there was a change of government and is awaiting compensation several years on. David was fortunate because he was able to inherit land from his father.
David’s small holding is fascinating to say the least; he has an apple orchard, coffee, bananas, pears, herbs, vegetables, beehives etc. He harvests his own water from the abundant rain in this region. He was given a cow and a goat and these two provide the manure for his farm. He employs over 20 people each month who help with all the activity on the farm and earns at £15,500 a year from farming
Mountain Gorilla Organic Coffee Estate Association is developing a Shade Coffee Initiative program to maintain the Tropical environment of the area by using native trees mixed with fruit trees to provide shades to Arabica coffee. David’s farm is a very good example of this as you can see from this video