Farmers savour coffee experience
On October 1, as coffee enthusiasts worldwide celebrated International Coffee Day, the National Coffee Research Institute (NaCORI) in Kituuza, Mukono District, made history by hosting the very first “Coffee Night.”
Coffee enthusiasts gathered under the stars at the National Coffee Research Institute (NaCORI) in Kituuza for a night to remember, as they celebrated the rich and aromatic world of coffee.
The event, aptly named “Coffee Night,” was a tribute to the coffee experience and the tireless efforts of researchers in advancing the coffee industry in Uganda. The enchanting evening was a true celebration of Uganda’s coffee culture, combining a blend of education, entertainment, and appreciation for this treasured beverage.
Guests were treated to a guided tour of the NaCORI facilities, gaining insights into the institute’s role in coffee research and development in terms of breeding coffee varieties, pest and disease management, and sustainable farming practices.
The evening’s centerpiece was a delightful coffee-tasting session, where attendees savored a variety of coffee blends. The night’s entertainment featured live music and cultural performances complementing the coffee-infused evening.
A rich history
Dr. Geoffrey Arinaitwe, the Director of the National Coffee Research Institute – NaCORI, highlighted the history of coffee in Uganda. The use of coffee dates back to before 1900 when it was used as a symbol of strong friendship. People would perform coffee rituals, where coffee beans were soaked in blood and swallowed, signifying a covenant and deep bond.
The arrival of the colonialists in Uganda led to the cultivation of Arabica Coffee in 1907, followed by the introduction of Robusta Coffee in the Kituuza area in 1917. Throughout the 1950s, Kituuza transformed into a research institute, a status it maintained until 2004 when it was still part of the National Crop Resources and Research Institute (NaCCRI) in Namulonge.
In 2013, the first National Coffee Policy was enacted, paving the way for the National Coffee Strategy developed by the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA). In 2014, NaCORI officially became the 16th public agriculture research institute with the mandate to engage in both basic and applied research related to coffee and cocoa.
“We must now enable the farmer to get more options and value from coffee,” Arinaitwe said. “That means the farmer will have coffee for export, cosmetics production, and local consumption. It’s proven that using coffee-based cosmetics has anti-aging chemicals.”
Inaugural Coffee Night
“We wanted to create more coffee products for the market, understand market demands, and boost our presence in the market. That’s when we came up with the idea of Kituuza Coffee Night, which is slated to become the Kampala Coffee Festival in the future. Our goal is to promote local consumption of coffee,” Dr. Arinaitwe said.
To achieve this, championships were organized between students from Makerere and Kyambogo Universities to generate novel coffee-related ideas. Additionally, NaCORI collaborated with the Uganda Cycling Association to encourage riders to take advantage of the caffeine in coffee. Arinaitwe highlighted that caffeine is the only chemical permitted in sports, making coffee an ideal energy booster.
In partnership with the Rolex Initiative, NaCORI aimed to promote coffee consumption by offering quality coffee alongside good rolex, a popular Ugandan snack. Enid Mirembe, the former Miss Tourism and executive director of the Rolex Initiative, expressed her commitment to the cause. “If we can give people the best coffee and good rolex, they can keep consuming our coffee,” Mirembe said.
The Kituuza Coffee Night Barista Championships were also introduced to boost coffee culture and consumption.
The coffee impact
Gerald Kyalo, Research Liaison Officer with UCDA, shed light on the significance of coffee in Uganda. He mentioned that over two million households in Uganda depend on coffee for their livelihoods, making it a vital contributor to poverty reduction.
He also highlighted Uganda’s coffee export achievements, including the export of 577,000 60-kilogram bags of coffee in September 2023, fetching $94 million. The country had exported a total of 6.1 million bags of coffee during the previous coffee year, up to September 2022.
He emphasized the importance of initiatives such as Coffee Night in boosting domestic coffee consumption. While Uganda grows significant quantities of coffee, approximately 95 percent of it is exported. In contrast, countries like Ethiopia consume about 50 percent of the coffee they produce. “Initiatives like Coffee Night aim to stimulate domestic consumption,” Kyalo said.
Dr. Yona Baguma, the Director General of the National Agricultural Research Organization (Naro), highlighted the historical significance of Coffee Night in Uganda. He noted that this event marked the first time the country had seen such excitement centered around coffee.
In his keynote address, Dr. Frederick Kawuma, the former Secretary-General of the Inter-African Coffee Organisation (IACO), discussed the challenges and opportunities for transforming the coffee value chain. He acknowledged that African countries were historically structured for raw material extraction under colonial rule, rather than encouraging trade among themselves. However, recent developments include the emergence of integrated coffee value chains within African countries and improved quality in coffee exports.