At Uganda’s inaugural Tourism Excellence Awards, the Ishasha Community Uplift Project received the ultimate accolade: Best Community Tourism Initiative 2015, in recognition of the project’s success in bringing together tourism, conservation and community in a fun, interactive and educational way.
If you’re travelling between Bwindi and Queen Elizabeth allow time to pull over and visit Deo’s Model Homestead Tour and Agartha’s Taste of Uganda Tour, the twin tourism experiences developed by the Ishasha Community Uplift Project (ICUG). Meet the real people of Ishasha and see how the community is devising ways to pull themselves out of poverty.
Introducing Deo’s Model Homestead Tour
Deo’s Model Homestead Tour shows you how Ugandans survive alongside wildlife on the edge of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Every member of the family plays their part in farming and defending their crops from animals, day in day out.
One of the undoubted highlights of Deo’s Tour is the opportunity to view, and even climb down inside, the elephant trench, first excavated by the Uganda Conservation Foundation.
An elephant trench separates Deo the farmer and his family from the park and its hungry wildlife. Maintaining the trench – to the recommended two metres wide by two metres deep – can be a full-time job, especially after the rains.
Elephants will regularly try and cross poorly maintained sections of the trench and can eat and trample the entire crop in just half an hour. To deter them, Deo burns a mixture of elephant dung and chilli. When he bangs loudly on a jerry can, the rest of the family know to come running to make noise and shoo the animals away. As part of Deo’s tour, you may even be invited to help maintain the trench!
Do you know how to tell whether a jackfruit is ripe? Do you know the medicinal uses of the Aloe plant? Deo answers these questions and more as he guides you through the fields of maize, bananas and medicinal plants. I enjoyed seeing how Deo scares off the baboons! How does he do that? Ah, well you need to visit and see (experience! and hear!) for yourself.
Introducing Agartha’s Taste of Uganda
Agartha and her female neighbours invite you to learn about the life of a Bakiga woman living in this remote part of Uganda. She will show you how the local women treat dry millet, one of the community’s staple foods. Working the seeds with her feet to separate the seeds from the stalk is one of the must have skills. (Agartha has some good dance moves!)
Agartha may even invite you to have a go at pounding the millet with a dry stone to dehusk it. She will also invite you to sample the millet porridge from a traditional gourd (or a modern cup), and to taste hot soybeans and groundnuts, which happens to be the first meal a woman receives after giving birth for reasons she will explain. The tour takes half an hour, or longer if you have time. (Note that the tour has been designed for people who want to break up a long journey and a new toilet block ‘fit for a king’ has just been installed behind Agartha’s house).
Who benefits from this project?
The fee paid to visit “Deo’s Model Homestead Tour” and “Agartha’s Taste of Uganda” boosts what is now a successful SACS Savings and Credit Scheme. Everyone in the community is welcome to join this scheme and access loans of over a million Uganda shillings. Instead of hiring land to plant crops, members are now buying land, and starting up businesses.
The success of this Community Group is thanks to three years one to one training by Julia and Wilbur. Visitor feedback, input from the Uganda Wildlife Authority, and independent monitoring by Uganda Community Tourism Association have been crucial in developing the tourism experiences to a high international standard.
These new community tours complement the well-established tourism activities, such as wildlife game drives and bird watching that draw tourists to Ishasha. The projects are self-sustaining and are an excellent template for grassroots community development. They are a fascinating look into rural Ugandan life. Do try and visit them yourself!
How to get there
Deo’s Model Homestead and Agartha’s Taste of Uganda tour are based in Upper Kazinga, Kihihi Sub-County. They are approximately 2 km apart.
Leaving Kihihi, heading towards Ishasha, drive for 10 minutes to the next trading centre, where you will find a signpost to Agartha’s Taste of Uganda tour. Deo’s is signposted a few more minutes up the road immediately before the Queen Elizabeth National Park boundary. His homestead is five minutes’ drive from the main road. You can’t miss the new signage!
How to book
To visit Deo’s Model Homestead and Agartha’s Taste of Uganda, pre book with Wild Frontiers Uganda (Tel +256 (0) 414 321479 / firstname.lastname@example.org) or call Agartha on +256 (0) 777 216853 or Deo on +256 (0) 781 201368. Please note that Deo and Agartha are working farmers so need at least one day’s notice in order to prepare for your visit.
For $15 per person, you have the option of visiting one or both of the community projects. This is a flat rate (adult/child), regardless of whether you take one tour or two. All proceeds go to the community.