Coffee growing in Masaabaland started in 1912. We grow the arabica type commercially called
Bugisu Arabica Coffee. We call our coffee tsimwanyi, zimwanyi, imwanyi or lipesa. It’s our
money maker. It is an inheritance from our forefathers. It’s our birthright.
In Crema Magazine of Australia, they write, “…..Uganda is not only a home of endangered Mountain Gorillas and Jose Chameleon, but it’s also the 7th largest coffee producer in the world and 2nd largest in Africa.” The magazine continues…”In the East close to the Kenyan border on Mt. Elgon, there is a region that is producing some of the most exquisite Arabica coffee you will ever taste anywhere in the world; this is the coffee of Bugisu…Bugisu is one of the few single origin coffees that can be served as is, without the need to blend. It’s rustic and earthy with citric tones, and as a milk based drink, it cuts through with some warm chocolate flavours.”
In our years of childhood, our fathers would not sell coffee beans. They wouldn’t sell coffee in tins. Despite the financial needs, coffee was to be sold through our primary cooperative societies. That was the tradition.
On our heads, we would carry sacks and tins of coffee to our nearest primary societies. It was here that coffee was received weighed and stored. We noted the kilos for reconciliation at the time of payment.
Lorries branded MAN, Grow More Coffee from Bugisu Cooperative Union (BCU) would come to carry coffee from our local societies. The national buyer was Coffee Marketing Board (CMB), who would export coffee and bring us cash after a few months.
Payments were handsome. With that money, our parents paid our fees, built iron-sheet houses, paid dowries for our brothers, bought gomesi’s for our mothers, bought meat and sugar for our celebrative consumption. I must say it was a good trade off —coffee exchanged for money.
Shalelo, tsimwanyi bakulisila mumukunda – bakulisa bimuli – bakulisa kamatunda mumikyebe – bakulisa khukula chapatti ni khunywa buusela! Tsisosaita tsayikila tse babetswa ni basamba metsi.