Mesmerizing Kapchorwa
Sipi Falls.

Mesmerizing Kapchorwa


By Gerald Businge
more from author >>
First published: February 16, 2006


Kapchorwa, which is found in Eastern Uganda, is not endowed with that many nationally recognized natural or historical attractions. But the whole place called Kapchorwa district is a natural attraction in itself.

Kapchorwa is the district found at the Ugandan border with Kenya and the base of Mt. Elgon. Many people however agree that no other area in Uganda provides the splendour of steep slopes and natural escarpments, as does Kapchorwa. From forested mountains, which are tempting for a mountain climb, to numerous falls from rivers flowing out of mountains, to the sites that make you feel like you have the whole world under your feet, Kapchorwa has it all.

For anyone going to Kapchorwa, you have to board vehicles to Mbale, a three hours drive from Kampala. From there you get vehicles to Kapchorwa. After driving for about 12 kilometers on Mbale-Tororo road, you see a signpost on the right hand side indicating the junction to Kapchorwa, 98kms away.

A journey to Kapchorwa is as tantalizing as it is worrying. Especially on your maiden visit to the hilly district, it is bound to keep you on tension as the vehicles swerves through either huge rocks or valleys on both sides of the road. Sometimes you feel like you are about to enter into a rock or you will easily fall off into the valley as the vehicle negotiates its way up the steep slopes.

At View Point from where you can see tens of miles ahead on the left hand side, you are able to see the savannah grassland stretching across Karamoja region with dots for peoples houses and gardens. It is a sight you need to experience at least twice in your lifetime as you enjoy a cool breeze from the environs and a unique serenity that only God could have engineered.

We stood on a nearby cliff and drank in the panoramic view of the sweeping valley below. In the distance of the opposite side, one can see more than four falls cascading down the steep, precipitous cliffs.

Much of the hillsides are decorated with a splash of vibrant colours as flowers in soft pinks, whites and a blaze of reds, oranges can be made out from the largely green foliage covering the slopes. Natural beauty at its best.

As you move along the road, families are engaged in different activities, farming in their garden, guarding their cereals which they have brought to the roadside to dry, or guiding their animal work machines that will certainly make you look harder.

On donkeys, oxen and camels, the people of Kapchorwa have a means of transport that can manage the sloppy terrain of Kapchorwa. Almost every family in Kapchorwa owns a donkey, ox or a camel, which they use for transport or plowing. This alone is a tourist attraction, as camels, donkeys and oxen are a rare sight in most parts of Uganda.

After visiting Kapchorwa, you understand why the Sabiny (people from this highland district) always refer to their place as the upstairs of Uganda, insinuating that the rest of us live on the ground floor of Uganda.

Kapchorwa: Farmland
Kapchorwa: Farmland.


Expansive crop gardens rolling in the contours on the slopes of either side of wherever you will be, add to the beauty and green glamour that many people have come to permanently associate with Kapchorwa.

But you still have to wonder why such people have one of the most demeaning cultural practices of female circumcision, for which the district is mostly known in Uganda and elsewhere. The mention of Kapchorwa sends many Ugandans thinking of the Sabiny and their circumcising of girls, a practice that has drawn many NGOs to the area in order to fight it.

Though they are also high on the beauty scale in Uganda, Kapchorwa is also surrounded by cattle rustling tribes in the Karamojong and the Pokot from neighbouring Kenya who have made Kapchorwa their cattle-harvesting region, given the fact that the other tribes are more war-like than the Sabiny.

Kapchorwa: Fertile soils
Kapchorwa: Fertile soils.

That is why cultivation is slowly taking over from livestock keeping as the leading economic activity of many families in Kapchorwa. And they dont even have to kneel down to pray for rain or fertile soils since God has given the prerequisites of cultivation success in abundance.

As you move in most of Kapchorwa, you will see expansive maize gardens at different stages of growth, even as families look poor to afford big gardens. Because of the good climate and soils, there are no definite seasons and people can plant whenever they like. How many farmers would like such a situation? The other crops grown on large scale include wheat, matooke and sunflower.

Kapchorwa: Selling on the roadside
Kapchorwa: Selling on the roadside.

Also thanks to the newly built tarmac road, as well as well worked on feeder roads within the district, many people in Kapchorwa can now grow and sell their the crops unlike in the past when the roads were barely passable. Few traders could ever make it to Kapchorwa, and those who did, made it at a high cost meaning they will buy produce from local farmers cheaply in order to stay in business.

 Nelson Chelimo
Nelson Chelimo.

These days, the traders come up to farmers homes and offer competitive prices. The people have in return taken to farming with gusto, says Nelson Chelimo, the Kapchorwa district chairperson.

As a result, the developments that are going on in Kapchorwa speak volumes. When I first visited in 2002, getting a hotel room (leave alone a decent one) in Kapchorwa was a very hard task. There were only two main hotels and one had to book in advance of a day or two. The main hotel was reserved for dignitaries, normally people working for NGOs in the area. Arriving at night even made it worse. Being journalists who were there to cover the cultural day held every December, the manager of one of the hotels, Rest Corner, was persuaded to organize for us special accommodation for which he accepted.

Two rooms made of timber from the floor to the roofing were arranged for us, with mattresses brought in an hour later. The people working in the hotel who also seemed to be running a family there were surprised when we asked for super. But they quickly prepared for rice for the pipolo of Kampala as they referred to us. We ate at around 1am. Friendly people, but the customer care seemed to them a word to come in the next edition of their dictionary.

When I returned to Kapchorwa this past December, there were a collection of hotels and we had the opportunity to choose which one to sleep in. Rest Corner was an advanced beauty and professionally run as was the hotels we slept in, Noahs Ark and newly built Masha hotel. The growth of Kapchorwa is obvious.

As a result, the developments that are going on in Kapchorwa speak volumes. When I first visited in 2002, getting a hotel room (leave alone a decent one) in Kapchorwa was a very hard task. There were only two main hotels and one had to book in advance of a day or two. The main hotel was reserved for dignitaries, normally people working for NGOs in the area. Arriving at night even made it worse. Being journalists who were there to cover the cultural day held every December, the manager of one of the hotels, Rest Corner, was persuaded to organize for us special accommodation for which he accepted.

Two rooms made of timber from the floor to the roofing were arranged for us, with mattresses brought in an hour later. The people working in the hotel who also seemed to be running a family there were surprised when we asked for super. But they quickly prepared for rice for the pipolo of Kampala as they referred to us. We ate at around 1am. Friendly people, but the customer care seemed to them a word to come in the next edition of their dictionary.

 Masha hotel
Masha hotel.

When I returned to Kapchorwa this past December, there were a collection of hotels and we had the opportunity to choose which one to sleep in. Rest Corner was an advanced beauty and professionally run as was the hotels we slept in, Noahs Ark and newly built Masha hotel. The growth of Kapchorwa is obvious.

By Gerald Businge
more from author >>
First published: February 16, 2006
To learn more about Ultimate Media Consult go to www.ultimatemediaconsult.com.

Gerald Businge is a media practitioner and features Editor at Ultimate Media Consult in Uganda. He is a graduate of Mass Communication and several journalism and leadership certificates. He has been a practicing journalist since March 2001 and has worked at The New Vision as features writer, and has written extensively for different newspapers, magazines, newsletters in Uganda and internationally. He currently does fulltime media communication consultancy work as well as writing and editing at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd where he is a founding member and CEO. You can get his attention so long as you are interested in and you are working for a better world.