By Jonathan Benaiah (The Ugandan Tourist)
Hello reader! Yes I mean you with a beautiful smile. Welcome to yet another one of my endless adventures, and this time it’s nothing to do with wildlife or waterfalls or some crazy extreme sports.
Here’s what you need to know. Simple! If you know what a pineapple is, then I bet you’ll love this write-up. You might know that processed pineapples sell out quite quickly in most grocery stores around the world, but having this fruit in its fresh and juicy state direct from the garden could be equated to the sweetest line from a man in love. Mmmmh yummy! Well, let’s roll…
After a hot cup of tea and a heated plate of Irish potatoes that Saturday morning, I was picked up to join a team of friends from tourism and travel media to embark on a journey from Kampala, the capital, towards Luweero district. A pretty relaxed group we were, but little did we know that we would be energized soon on arrival.
Our seventy seven (77) kilometer journey on wheels to Luweero lasted about 53 minutes and we were soon arriving in Kasana Town Council, a popular trading center in Luweero where we had been advised to take a diversion onto a dirt marram road that led on for another bumpy nine (9) kilometers to our actual destination, Sulma Foods Processing Plant a group that deals in dried and packed fruit snacks that also ideally serve as visitor souvenirs.
We were greeted by a signpost partly hidden in the bushy vegetation that pointed to the main entrance to the site, and were then led to a spot in the compound under a tree where we would receive a necessary briefing from the General Manager, Geoffrey Bogere.
The previous week I had been invited by a friend of mine, Samuel Mugisha, the proprietor of Bic Tours, an East African based Destination Management Company (DMC). Mr. Mugisha has also been trying to promote Agritourism, a concept that is still little-known neither embraced in Uganda. Sam was organizing a familiarization tour for 2 of his Japan-based travel agents and thought I would tag along with a few other guys.
The tour around the food processing plant started from a point where the pineapples are received, into the factory; which actually felt like walking into a medical lab. Our shoes had to be substituted with clean white workshop boots, and wherever you looked were signs of caution to keep the place clean and tidy. Quite obvious for a facility that produces processed food and has ISO certification.
Godfrey led us through the outwardly seamless process of getting to the finished product right from the slicing of pineapples to heating and drying, and packing into biodegradable plastic bags. But wait? Had we missed a step? Well we had but it was intentional.
Back in our vehicles, we drove about an hour deeper into the village in hunt for one of the model farms that serve the processing plant with a regular supply of pineapples that enable it produce to optimum capacity.
The intention was to embark on a search for the biggest ripe pineapples with no professional aid. Godfrey and Samuel called this the “pineapple hunt”.
Now, what made this experience much more enjoyable and hilarious was the fact that many of us were “urban dwellers” with little or no knowledge at all about farm life. Here we were making our way through the tightly guarded isles of pineapples, a spiky community of thousands of them. Our eyes were focused on fruits that looked at least 70% yellow; well the yellowish color as “a rule of thumb” seems to translate in ripeness. No rocket science!
The hunt lasted about 30 minutes with all the members of the crew having found a pineapple. Sadly I didn’t get the hugest as I had hoped (it was harder than I had anticipated) but neither did I get the littlest. Does that sound like a consolation?
The feast of fresh pineapples commenced and the looks on our Japanese friends’ faces only reconfirmed the statement that Uganda is home to the best pineapples on the planet; I mean in the entire world.
We drove back to where everything started (Sulma Food Processing Plant) for a healthy lunch that was served with no cutlery; we had to dig in with our fingers.
It was time to hit the road back to the organized chaos that is Kampala. Thankfully we were each gifted with a souvenir of dried pineapples whose market value (we learned) is currently at $5; very very sweet! Oh and we still had more fresh pineapples to carry home with us.
Agritourism is a tourism niche that is both little-explored and unheard-of although it is fast developing in the western world as an alternative source of tourism revenue. It would work as a perfect detour/trip break on a long journey to the mainstream tourism products (the national parks) in the case of Uganda.
Agritourism (Sometimes called Agrotourism or Farm Tourism) offers one of the best opportunities to experience the cultures of the people in the destination country, a chance to contribute to their livelihoods but also allows for an unforgettable taste of the foods of the people.
The tour lasts from 2 hours to 5 hours depending on how tight your schedule is and how far the farm you visit is located. Sulma Foods supports over 900 local farms, so each time a visitor buys a product, they are indirectly supporting a village farmer in Luwero.
What to pack:
- Some durable walking shoes
- Trousers and Long-sleeved Shirt/Blouse. Don’t you make the mistake that I made to put on sweatpants because you’ll get punished by the prickly pineapple leaves.
- At least a liter of drinking water
- A camera to capture the moments
- A hungry stomach
Until next time… I remain yours truly, The Ugandan Tourist.