The African Village Guest Farm
Guinea Fowl Restaurant at the African Village Guest Farm.

The African Village Guest Farm

Difficult to believe that all this is in Hoima...

By Gerald Businge
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First published: March 8, 2006

Many people who have lived or been in Hoima town will tell you it is the usual town place, a collection of long stretching and criss-crossing streets full of shops and budding residential suburbs with a mixture of basic and modern and beautiful houses.

It may be hard to imagine, but the real attraction of Hoima town lies miles away from the town center. You have to get a boda boda to take you about three miles to Kibingo, in the outskirts of Hoima, a typical traditional town in mid-western Uganda.

The bumpy muram road and the stretching bushes finally give way to a fine compound of captivating green grass, architecture and an aura of finesses that one only gets in special well-kept places. This is the Africa Village Guest Farm.

African Village Guest Farm
African Village Guest Farm.

The first few moments at the gate of this farm feel like an entrance into deserted grassland. As you move closer after entering (sometimes for free, most times for a fee) the cattle grazing, beautiful houses visible after entering are enough to raise your appetite to rush in.

Singing birds and the whistling of the wind cuts into the deafening blanket of silence at the farm entrance, creating an enormous sense of suspense and mystery. You cant help but wonder what it is you are about to discover at this Africa Village.

The African Village Guest Farm is a place where modernity meets tradition, a place where Bunyoros natural beauty blends with its rich culture and a contemporary lifestyle.

African Village Guest Farm
African Village Guest Farm.

The African Village Guest Farm is a 60-acre stretch of land with a modern restaurant, residential cottages, a conference hall, a museum and an art gallery. Surrounded by lush green pastures, budding flora and tender green trees, this farm enjoys the tranquil and regal atmosphere of the Karuzika (Bunyoro Kingdom palace), on one side. It basks in the green glory of Bugambe Tea Estate on the northern side, while a cool breeze blows in from the Wambabya River, on whose banks it lies. You soon understand why many people in Hoima always recommend a visit to this place, if you asked anyone for a good place to rest or for adventure.

The African Village recoils from the bustle of Hoima Town and enjoys the protection of the green thickets that cover it.

Ten years ago, this area was a huge bush infested with poisonous snakes and dangerous animals, says Muhiigwa Atwooki, the proprietor of African Village.

But with help from our local people and a lot of investment, we have transformed it, he adds with obvious satisfaction.

On every side, there is an expanse of land filled with trees and green pastures on which cattle are grazing gracefully. A true wish for the Africa Village, what we all might wish the continent village to be: peaceful, resourceful and real to the people.

Muhiigwa volunteered to take me on a guided tour of the farm. As we explore the farm further, a white stone and concrete shelter arrests our gaze.

Guinea Fowl Restaurant
Guinea Fowl Restaurant.

That is the Guinea Fowl Restaurant, Muhiigwa says. Like an abandoned barn in the middle of a huge country ranch, this restaurant stands isolated in the middle of the farm, surrounded by a smooth green carpet of well-mowed lawn. At the entrance is a cage in which a parrot rests, giving occasional entertainment to the visitors. Parrots are rare in Uganda and much of Africa. People try to ask the parrot to say something but this is probably the day it has chosen to observe a code of silence.

Parrot at Guinea Fowl Restaurant
Parrot at Guinea Fowl Restaurant.

Lined with white concrete poles and a green triangular roof, the Guinea Fowl Restaurant displays modern architecture. All the furniture inside is from unrefined timber and the table mats are locally made from barkcloth and some animal skin looking material to add to the African theme. The restaurant provides a scenic view of the rest of the farm situated on a slanting hill that makes its discovery more enjoyable.

Many locals in Hoima are aware of this reassure but because of the entrance fee, many have been unable to come and discover the wonder their neighbour is offering the world. But many have afforded a little fee for their children to come and watch camels and donkeys.

Further down from the restaurant there is a green swampy thicket surrounding the farm - the trails. Out of curiosity, we brave the muddy waters and the grassy enclaves of the trails. We feel like explorers in the middle of a thick impenetrable forest. It is quite an experience.

For a moment, we are cut off from the rest of the world, hearing only sweet chuckles from wild birds and the hissing of other animals (snakes?). We have to hold on to tree branches as we stumble across the steep and slippery terrain, lest we fall. As we wander on, an awful whiff arrests us.

A few metres away, we find a rotting wildcat with a host of flies hovering over it. The nauseating stench is too choking to bear. Our walk through the trails unceremoniously ends here.

The exit from the trails leads us further to a village of round, grass-thatched cottages.

Cottages at the African Village Guest Farm
Cottages at the African Village Guest Farm.

Their white exterior, smooth marble floors and modern furnishing paint the picture of a beautiful country resort lodge. Difficult to believe that all this is in Hoima, a town I have been in for many years.

The cottages are all fenced with squared metallic wires and each of them has a cultural name. This is where our guests sleep, says Muhiigwa.

Cottages at the African Village Guest Farm
Cottages at the African Village Guest Farm.

One is named Ffumbe, after one of the clans in Buganda. The Banyoro share a long history with the Baganda. This is our way of relating to our brothers in Buganda, says Muhiigwa.

Of particular interest was the sight of a stuffed lion preserved in a glass shelter just outside the cottages. It still looks strong and vicious. But this is a good place to see a lion without worry of running for dear life.

The highlight of the tour to the Africa Village Guest farm is undoubtedly a visit to the mini-museum and art gallery. Here is a place where Bunyoros rich cultural past lives on, a place where much of Ugandas history is written.

Priceless artefacts, including portraits of Bunyoros great kings, major historical events in Bunyoro and other kingdoms and household items used over 100 years ago are jealously guarded here in clean well-kept shelves.

From one corner of the museum a life-size portrait of Kabalega, one of the great kings of Bunyoro stares, as if watching over everything else in the museum.

The sight of the giant king evokes sweet memories of old history classroom tales of the once mighty Bunyoro-Kitara Empire that stretched from present day northern Uganda, to Rwanda and Northern Tanzania.

Next to Kabalega is a portrait of Sir Tito Winyi IV (the father of the current Bunyoro King, Solomon Gabausa Iguru 1) at his coronation, draped in glittering leopard skin and flowing royal garb. His kingly poise and looks are captivating.

To the far left, three framed pairs of brown and black bead necklaces dangle merrily giving you that feeling of glory in the sweet palace.

These belonged to Princess Alexandra Komukyeya, daughter of Omukama Duhaga of Bunyoro. She died in 1993, aged 89, says Atwooki.

Next to them are two pairs of blue, black and white bead necklaces known as Enkwanzi Zabajwara Kondo, worn only by brave Banyoro and Royalty.

These are priceless, you cant get them anywhere, he says. A pity they cant allow me to take photos inside here as it would spoil the chances of many people visiting.

Inside the museum, you will also be amazed to see a map of Kampala in the 1950s and pictures of Emperor Haile Selassies historical visit to Uganda at the invitation of Kabaka Muteesa II.

Also on display are Enfuka (hoes) made out of rough iron, a spear-shaped metal pegged onto a long stick which ancient Banyoro used to dig with.

At the African Village Guest Farm you will be marvelling at everything. A place where natural beauty blends with rich culture and contemporary lifestyle to give any visitor a fulfilling attachment to Africa.

This is a place where you can learn so much about Bunyoro Kingdom in particular, and Uganda, in a few hours that you can ever learn in thousands of written books.

By Gerald Businge
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First published: March 8, 2006
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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.