Why Uganda Doesn’t Drink Its Own Coffee


Wake up — There are many reasons why Ugandans do not drink coffee. Olivia Musoke heard that it causes vaginal dryness. When she was breastfeeding her children, people also told her that the milk would run out.

Musoke grows coffee, bananas and cassava. Originally from Mukono, central Uganda, the mother of five has been a coffee farmer for over 42 years. The cassava and bananas she plants are for her own consumption, but she has tasted only a handful of coffee beans since her friends said they were wary of her old age. We sell most of our coffee.

“When it’s ready, men get in trucks and carry everything,” she says.

Although coffee is one of Uganda’s major agricultural products, accounting for about 15% of the country’s total exports, locals like Musoke consume very little coffee. There are many reasons for this, including myths and misconceptions about coffee.

cash crop

Solomon Kapelle, a coffee farmer in Kamuri, eastern Uganda, says he has always thought of coffee as a cash crop. When he was young, his grandfather had him a ten-acre coffee plantation, but he has no recollection of drinking it.

Uganda’s public and private sectors are working to dispel myths by raising awareness and diversifying coffee products. In the process, they are expanding their market and increasing local consumption.

Ugandan coffee owes its origins to the highlands of Malawi and Ethiopia. It was introduced in 1900 to provide income for the British colonial government. For this reason, some Ugandans associate coffee with forced labor during the colonial period, hence the name Kiboko, which means whip or cane in Swahili, promoting Ugandan coffee exports abroad. said Daniel Karibwije, Export Trade Specialist at Green Forest Safaris & Export Consulting.

“It’s still in some people’s minds to this day,” says Karibwije. “Coffee is grown for others.”

grown and exported

Since its introduction, production has increased. In 1925, coffee made up only 1% of his country’s exports, but by 1958, coffee had overtaken cotton as the country’s leading export crop. In the 1970s, the industry experienced setbacks as civil war marked under Idi Amin’s regime, and coffee production fell by almost half between his 1972 and his 1977 years.

In 2018, Ugandans consumed only 3% to 4% of the coffee produced in the country.

However, in the 1980s, the liberalization process took place, increasing exports and payments to farmers. Uganda now exports a significant amount of coffee within the continent and around the world. According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, an online visualization platform affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it exported 26% of the continent’s coffee and her 1.75% of the world’s coffee in 2020. This equates him to $539 million.

Despite this global contribution, Uganda announced in February that it would suspend its membership in the intergovernmental group, the International Coffee Organization, for two years. This is out of concern that the organization is not supporting farmers and other stakeholders in their country. Uganda plans to use this time to focus more on increasing domestic consumption.

In 2018, Ugandans consumed only 3% to 4% of the coffee produced in the country, according to a parliamentary commission report.

“Most people tend to drink tea. Coffee has long been a cash crop, and people have grown it for sale and export while keeping tea close at hand,” says Karibwije.

coffee as a beauty product

Sonya Khadija Nari, who makes beauty products from coffee, hopes that the diversification of coffee’s uses will change people’s perceptions and increase local consumption.

A mother of two is experimenting with coffee. When her skin became dry and developed black spots, she turned to one of her favorite things: coffee. removed dark spots from her skin and gave it a glow. She made a product, a body scrub, and started selling it.

Nari now makes about 70 body scrubs a week. She does marketing on her social media her platform with hundreds of followers. Her product sells for 30,000 Ugandan shillings (about $8) a bottle.

Professor and bioentrepreneur Julius Nyanji makes antioxidant-rich coffee oil that helps the skin retain moisture. He also created coffee aroma dispensers to sell to restaurants “to smell what they sell” to attract customers. I have sold.

The National Coffee Institute, a government agency, is conducting research on how to use local ingredients such as coffee to make skin lotions, said Evans Atwijukile, a technology developer at the institute. . The formula is given to Ugandans who create products for sale both in Uganda and abroad.

Promote coffee consumption

The Uganda Coffee Development Authority, the government agency that oversees the coffee industry, is promoting coffee consumption in the country by raising awareness about the benefits of coffee in hospitals and universities, says Chief Quality Manager Doreen Lwayhang. We said. She installed billboards on major roads in the capital, Kampala, and Entebbe to promote coffee consumption. Also part of the annual Global Barista Competition, which trains baristas to prepare and serve high quality coffee and promotes coffee excellence, the Uganda National She encourages participation in the Barista Championship. increase.

“Championships help baristas brew quality coffee,” she says.

As a result of these collaborations, local production for local consumption is picking up. Rweihangwe cites indicators such as more coffee brands on the market and new cafes opening across the country.

We need a well-developed industry.

Yasir Ahmed, manager of Café Javas, one of Uganda’s leading cafés with 13 branches, said Ugandans are drinking more coffee than they used to.

Writer Ernest Bassanier says he started enjoying coffee around 2010. To “overcome postprandial depression” and get more work done, drink his first cup after lunch.

For Bazanye, Ugandans have always had a relationship with coffee, but what’s changing is how they consume coffee. Some people traditionally chewed the coffee beans, but more people, especially older and middle-aged Ugandans, are beginning to brew and drink it.

There are benefits to improving local consumption, says export expert Karibier. “With more domestic consumption, the economy will grow much faster,” he says.

Rweihangwe agrees. We need a well-developed industry. ’” She sees this as a gateway to providing more jobs for Ugandans.

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