In September 2017, I had the privilege of visiting the Bwindi Impenetrable Park in Western Uganda. Seeing the mountain gorillas has been a long and closely held dream and I was thrilled to realise it in this very special place. As a first-time visitor to Uganda, I came with a suitcase full of imagination fuelled by all the things I had read about East Africa and the gorillas. And I can safely say I took back more than I brought. Not counting the beautiful memories of forest and the people, my most priced take-away from Bwindi was the Ugandan coffee I bought from Gorilla Conservation Coffee (GCCoffee).
As I sip on a cup of this medium roast blend on a nippy December evening in Mumbai, where I live, its aroma infuses in me a warm feeling. This unique marriage of aroma and taste has also become a favourite of my friends, some of whom are budding coffee connoisseurs, having had coffee from several parts of the world.
For me however, what’s most special about this coffee is what it symbolises. GCCoffee is a social enterprise that is committed to providing sustainable livelihoods to Ugandans living around the Bwindi Impenetrable Park: a UNESCO world heritage site and home to nearly half of the world’s 880 surviving mountain gorillas. Created through a partnership between Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) and WWF Switzerland, GCCoffee is available across Uganda and can also be ordered online here.
CTPH is an NGO with a mission to improve the health of both the mountain gorillas and the people living close to them. Its founder Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, who I had the fantastic opportunity of meeting, told me how she had the idea of starting GCCoffee when she met the farmers living in and around Bwindi. Since its inception in 2015, it has brought prosperity to coffee farmers in the region. Dr. Zikusoka is an Ashoka Fellow and a well-known champion of gorilla conservation. She says providing livelihood opportunities to farmers is key to meeting conservation goals as it reduces people’s dependency on the forest. This has led to healthier people, gorillas and forests in Bwindi, making it a unique example of humans and protected forests co-existing peacefully.
Coming back to my cup, it is sometimes difficult to fathom if and how our product choices can lead to improved lives and a healthier planet. But the coffee from GCCoffee does just that. With every bag of coffee, you can not only help conserve a forest unmatched in its biodiversity, but also support a community that’s bearing the collective cost of protecting this forest for all of humanity.
And well, if that isn’t alluring enough, the coffee is possibly the best you will ever have, so I highly recommend you try it.
As written by Annie James