Kisoro Organic Coffee Experience
Just outside Kisoro, there is an organic coffee farm that I was invited to visit by one of the participants of the Community Storytelling Workshop, which I held in the town as part of the field activities of Traveller Storyteller.
Peter and his lovely wife Elizabeth own one of the first coffee farms in the region. Coffee has always grown wild in this area, but only in the last few decades has the government decided to invest in it, supporting local producers on their new journey.
Julius, my host for this first trip to Kisoro, is a coffee expert that came here to boost a local business experiment. He first came to the region ten years ago, due to his skills and knowledge, to support the implementation of coffee plantations. In fact, he grew up on the family coffee farm in the eastern region of the country, not far from Kampala, and he has known how to harvest since he was young.
That day, I was about to visit an active family-owned coffee farm which started 15 years ago with 200 trees; today it manages 650 trees, producing up to 1,200 kg of coffee in peak season – an average of 1.2–1.5 kg per tree. Julius informed me that this farm’s example and success has inspired other small local producers to undertake the same route.
I learnt that Peter’s coffee – as in the rest of the region – is not sold locally. Instead, it travels to Entebbe in a long and, to me, unnecessary journey, the reasons for which I couldn’t completely understand.
However, tourism represents an important additional source of income for Peter and his family, especially during the coffee low season.
We are ready now to start the visit to this welcoming farm. I am not alone though; all the other participants in the workshop join us too. I was surprised to hear that none of these local entrepreneurs, tour guides and birdwatching experts have ever been here before or knew much about the project, so I’m happy to have created the opportunity for this exchange.
As a logical first step, we start with the seeds.
We religiously follow Julius to the field, and Peter’s dog joins us, his tail and his movements visibly showing us how happy it is to see so many new faces and potential new people to have fun and play with.
As soon as we reach the plants, Julius’ voice switches to a very technical and professional tone. Here he is the coffee expert, strong and in his comfort zone, ready to share decades of experience of these not-so-well-known plants. The way he handles the plants shows extreme confidence and a lot of care.
Since we are not in the peak season, there aren’t many red beans hanging from the plants to admire but, even so, we can picture them in our minds while we learn about their features and life journey.
Walking on the farm I notice that it is populated with many banana trees. Apparently, that is intentional, and it is called ‘intercropping’. The tall, strong banana trees provide shade to the growing coffee plants and their closeness has also been proven to be effective for disease control purposes.
I take a picture of what I thought was a nice combination of the two species. Looking more carefully, I notice the dormant volcano, ‘the guide’, Muhabura, standing in the background with its siblings like a discreet photobomber. I start to understand why it was given this name: it really is a great signpost for this region and an undeniably strong geographical reference.
We end this part of the visit in the nursery surrounded by carpets of baby plants, loving learning that those tiny, fragile green creatures will live, on average, a life of 45 years – although some plants can be productive until 80 years old. I bet that all the organic feeding they receive as a fertilizer here – together with Peter’s family love – will surely increase the life span of these little ones.
Well, we will find out in a few decades.