coffee tourism in uganda

Coffee tourism in Uganda

Coffee tourism in Uganda is an emerging aspect through which the growth of the cash crop is integrated with other tourism products to promote both conservation & agriculture.

Uganda is the second coffee exporter in Africa, which presents opportunities for entrepreneurs to invest in the growing industry. There are two types of coffee grown in the country including robusta and Arabica coffee. Each type is grown in different geographical regions across the country.

Robusta coffee grows best at low altitude ranges between 800m to 1,000m above sea level while Arabica coffee is grown on mountain slopes between 1,300m and 2,300m above sea level. Robusta coffee is the most produced in the central, northern, and western regions in and around the lake Victoria and Nile river basin. Arabica coffee is grown on the slopes of Mount Elgon national park including Sipi falls, Kapchorwa and Mbale, Arua in the West Nile subregion, Fort Portal and Kasese at the foothills of Rwenzori Mountain ranges, and in the Kigezi highlands around Bwindi impenetrable and Mgahinga gorilla national parks in southwestern Uganda. Recently, a new variety called Liberica coffee was also introduced in the dry semi-arid climate in Karamoja subregion in the north east.

coffee tourism in uganda

As a subsector of agriculture, coffee farming is profitable with over 1.7 million smallholder and large scale farmers in cooperatives. According to Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), the country exported 6.26 million 60 kg bags of coffee, earning $876.4m in 2021. Coffee has become Uganda’s main cash crop and foreign exchange earner contributing over 15% to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The industry gives jobs to over 8 million people, which is about 20% of Uganda’s total population.

Currently, Ethiopia is the number one Africa’s exporter of Arabica coffee. But, Uganda intends to become a leader by increasing her production to 20 million bags in 2030 which would earn $2.2billion. This would be achieved through a number of ways including maintaining high quality seedlings on the market, which should be made accessible for new farmers. The government is planning to improve coffee production from the grassroot level including introducing new varieties and distributing them to new regions where the crop has previously not been cultivated. For instance, Liberica is a new variety introduced to withstand pests and diseases and the unprecedented impacts of climate change. Liberica coffee has been introduced in semi arid Karamoja subregion including Kabong district around Kidepo valley national park. Smallholder farmers, startups, and co-operatives are also being supported with necessary machinery and technology to add value in processing, production and packaging of coffee products.

Coffee and tourism

Given that coffee is grown around protected areas, there have been efforts to link tourism and coffee together. The Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), which is responsible for developing and promoting tourism products to the domestic and international markets, organized a coffee and tourism symposium in 2018 in Kampala capital city. Coffee being the main cash crop would present opportunities for diversifying the travel products and boost local businesses and the economy when value is increased especially through  processing, manufacturing, and marketing. Stakeholders right from the smallholder farmers to the hospitality and tour operators came together and shared ideas that have since shaped the development of the coffee tourism industry in Uganda and East Africa.

Today, there’s a wide range of coffee experiences to compliment the Uganda gorilla and wildlife safaris. From visiting coffee farm stays, shops, restaurants, and cafes, to natural packaged products available in markets across the country. With over 52 indigenous ethnic groups, the coffee culture in Uganda is rich including how it’s made from farm to cup. Those intending to explore how it’s grown, harvested, and prepared for consumption the best coffee destinations include Sipi falls, Kapchorwa, Bwindi, Kampala, and Fort Portal.

Kampala capital city

Kampala city is famous for its vibrant nightlife experience and offers a wide range of entertainment venues including theaters and nightclubs. Most of the places including cafes, restaurants, and accommodations stay open until late night. Kampala has been nicknamed “East Africa’s sleepless city.” With a population of over 1.3 million people, Kampala attracts a high demand for Uganda’s domestic coffee market and offers many coffee venues, from international brands like Cafe Javas and KFC to local coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants. There are also European, American, Chinese, Indian style cafes in Kololo, Muyenga, Makinde, Kabalagala, and Naguru. In addition to coffee, these places also offer fast foods, pizza, and wine deliveries within the central business district.

Coffee farms and plantation visits

In Kibale forest national park, which is famous for chimpanzee tracking safari, there’s a newly opened Coffee Lodge in Kyarusozi sub county in Kyenjojo district. The Clarke farm and coffee estate is 68km (1 hr drive) east of Kanyanchu visitor center along the Mubende-Fort Portal road. Set on a 1,500 acre family farm, the eco-friendly coffee estate specialises in high quality washed Robusta coffee beans. They also offer accommodation, coffee roasting, and a wide range of adventure activities including rock climbing and mountain biking.

Sipi falls, Kapchorwa

Uganda’s tallest and spectacular waterfalls, Sipi falls is located in Kapchorwa, which is 275 km (5-hour drive) north east of Kampala capital city, 195 km (3-hour drive) from Jinja source of the Nile river, 52 km north of Mbale city, and 27 km from Kapkwai Exploration Center of Mt. Elgon National Park. Mount Elgon (4,321 m) is the second tallest in Uganda and the world’s largest unbroken caldera. The rich fertile volcanic soils support Arabica coffee and there are several farms to visit and learn about the process of growing, harvesting, and processing these crops. Sipi falls offers a wide range of accommodations and adventure activities including abseiling over the 100-meter falls, hiking, rock climbing, and biking.

Coffee for gorilla conservation

Bwindi impenetrable national park is famous for harboring over 450 gorillas, which is almost half of the world’s mountain gorilla population. The rest of the gorillas live in Virunga area including Mgahinga gorilla, Volcanoes, and Virunga national parks in Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo respectively. In Bwindi, coffee farming is being used to conserve gorillas through social enterprises which include the Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) and the Gorilla Conservation Coffee founded by Dr. Gladys Kalema, a former Uganda Wildlife Authority veterinarian. The nonprofit organization supports over 500 farmers around Buhoma, the northern sector and park headquarters by training them to use wildlife-friendly farming practices, grow, and produce high quality coffee.

The coffee is then bought at premium price, processed, and packaged for export to markets throughout the world, including those in Uganda, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United States. The farmers receive a donation of the profits. The livelihoods of farmers have greatly improved and they no longer see justification for poaching and encroachment, which has kept the forests and wildlife safe. The gorilla coffee safari experience in Buhoma cost is $50 per person available for booking through a tour operator or the Gorilla Conservation Coffee Organization. The tour includes village walks to meet smallholder farmers and a gift of a 125 gram bag of medium roasted Arabica coffee.

Those intending to explore Uganda beyond her gorillas and wildlife, there’s a wide range of cultural tours including coffee experiences from day trips, short, to extended safaris.

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