Coffee Growing in MT. Elgon; Uganda is a travel destination with unique natural experiences that appeal to the travelers. Besides the wildlife safaris, breathtaking landscape sceneries, the welcoming people and many that put Uganda on global scene, some items taken for granted are in reality equally exciting. Such is coffee growing expedition into Mt Elgon ranges. Elgon is an extinct volcano east of Uganda bisected by the international borderline with Kenya. The Ugandan side is the rain shadow, receives large amounts of rainfall and is conducive for plant growth. Note; Uganda is an agricultural country and coffee in particular accounts for average 20% of exports amounting to close $50 million actually. The coffee expedition explores the foothills of Mt Elgon region, visits households and discovers the exciting coffee growing, rearing, harvesting, processing, preserving and trading experiences.
The Kapchorwa coffee-growing region is average 280km, 5-hour’s drive east of Kampala city. The local guide born from the surrounding areas, has-seen-it all and excited to share the coffee-value chain experiences makes coffee experiences warm and rewarding. A traditional breed Arabica coffee flourishes in fertile soils, high altitude 1,600m- 1,900m and is aptly conducive for the Kapchorwa region that has volcanic soils with high reputation of fertility and rises beyond 4000m. Private households reserve a portion of their own land for Arabica coffee growing intercropped especially with bananas to provide shade with an added advantage of cross-pollination. From nursery bed to harvesting on the farm, coffee growing is labor-intensive using semi skilled laborers and hand tools. The volcanic soils have rich mineral content and need no fertilizers; the cold weather conditions are unfavorable for survival of irritating pests and Arabica coffee is highly organic. Large-scale companies have stores in strategic places accessed by trucks and buy coffee beans from farmer. The coffee beans then undergo rigorous processes of sorting, grading, removing husks, grinding, packaging and transport to the market for coffee beverage. The main interest of the coffee tour however is the coffee processing at a household level. The visitors harvest ready coffee beans from the garden that is sun dried, sorted and pounded to remove coffee husks. The next process involves roasting of coffee beans to coffee-brown color over a regulated fire. Pounding of the roasted coffee beans in a mortar with a pestle to required levels of powder is the next level. The visitors can mix the powder with hot water and enjoy an aromatic cup of Arabica coffee drink on the farm.
Besides generating cash to farmers, coffee creates employment to different set of people at each value chain. From the farm, transporters take coffee to stores, where it the coffee beans are weighed, sorted in grades and processed to final coffee beverage in powder form. Coffee in powder form now is packed, loaded on trucks and transported to the market. Coffee is an ingredient in manufacture of other items and not all coffee is for beverage. Machinery and individuals at different levels make the coffee processing very successful.
The benefits of coffee growing trickle down to the last person in many ways. The coffee farmers get cash with which to buy other household items and life necessities. The large corporations open stores deep in villages to get closer to coffee growers. They rent premises; buy necessities from village besides making roads to access the villages, which everyone uses. Electricity extended deeper into the villages to run factories runs other business besides coffee processing. If true that coffee generates $50m, US Dollars Fifty Millions annually to Uganda government as per statistics, then without doubt a chuck of this revenue trickles down to the grass root farmers in Kapchorwa highlands. The coffee safari into Mt Elgon is an exceptional way of exploring Uganda and discovering unique Ugandan lifestyles. Very few travelers would imagine that the coffee farms they pass by en route to game parks and other tourism attraction can generate $50millions. The coffee tours open the mind of travelers to realities of nature and lifestyles of indigenous Ugandans in the countryside. For travelers en route to or from Kidepo valley national park on game viewing safari, coffee tour is an appropriate way of getting a balanced view on Uganda as a country not solely relying on foreign aid. The coffee tour provides a required break from the fatigue of long road travel to Kidepo valley national park.