On a visit to Bushenyi District I discovered a very interesting and innovative community initiative which has the potential to be a community tourism destination. The place is called – KABAGARAME- which means ‘when people have eaten and drank, are satisfied, and just lie down facing the sky relaxing’. The place is famous for pork. It started as a collection of a few grass thatched huts, where a group of friends /civil servants who work in the local Bushenyi government would meet, enjoy roast pork, and relax on a Saturday. Through word of mouth, the numbers started increasing, and then the number of huts and cooked pigs also increased.
What started as a simple village meeting place has now turned into a fully-fledged weekly ‘happening place’ for civil servants, corporate managers, and families. They now come from as far as Kabale, Mbarara and Rukungiri – a distance of over 50 kilometres away!
On my first visit, I brought friends from Kampala who were staying at my country home in Mbarara for a weekend. I decided to take them for a drive and we ended up in Bushenyi and at Kabagarame. My friends, adult Ugandans, had never been beyond Buddo (16 km from Kampala). At Kabagarame, the novel is to eat pork, prepared like stew, with millet bread (akaro) and salads. My friends were used to the Kampala version of roasted pork ribs, so they did not enjoy the stew. And I also do not eat pork – I would have preferred a choice of either chicken or goat meat. The place was not very attractive, in that there were pools of rain water, rubbish, and the huts were poorly thatched. With so many people, I did not feel confident about the hygiene/sanitation.
We had traveled with my friend Abby from Rukararwe Center in Bushenyi who had recommended the place as a possible tourist stopping point because it is a few meters off the highway to Queen Elizabeth National Park. On our way back, I shared my impression with Abby. I pointed out the potential of Kabagarame: great location, interesting local product, opportunity to meet local people, and potential for new products such as traditional entertainment, craft kiosks, processed fruits, honey, wine etc. I also emphasized the need to improve hygiene, sanitation, and the surrounding environment.
Five months later, Abby invited me back to Kabagarame, where I was joined by COBATI Homestead owner, Betty Kahima, and I was nicely surprised to find a lot of improvement. The huts were improved; there was a car park area; the rubbish was gone; and there was a variety of meats like chicken, goat, and pork ribs. Abby introduced me to the Caretaker, Arinaitwe Benson, a representative of the Bushenyi District Town Clerk, who was grateful for the recommendations, feedback, and tips I shared with Abby. He took me around the place and I was very happy that they now had running water from the local government. I encouraged them to continue improvements and promised to market their establishment on the COBATI website. They also expressed a wish to link up with the COBATI community tourism programme and start hosting tourists enroute to Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori, Semliki and Kibale National Parks.