Oli otya from Uganda! Manchester student reveals coffee disease discovery and crazy Ugandan drinking

By Robert Stalker, writing in Uganda

As Manchester Metropolitan student Robert Stalker begins his second month living and working in Uganda, he is able to further immerse himself in African culture. 

Robert has invited us along to share his adventerous exploits aiding the local Uganda coffee farmers rid their crops of a killer disease affecting millions of people in the country.

Here, he talks about his discovery of an even deadlier disease ruining the crops of coffee farmers in the village, having his skin touched by the locals, and experiencing a good old fashioned Ugandan drinking session.


Living in Uganda I am constantly stopped by people who, strangely, want to feel my skin. I have always said I would like to be a dog for the day but this is not what I had imagined with several people stroking me.

As a treat for all my hard work dealing with the frustration of the farmers, I was able to try the local brew or waragi priced at roughly 30p – this would make Saturday night drinking in England even messier!

However, unlike the beer back home, this looked like mud in a bucket which is placed in the middle of a group where a group of revellers drink from large wooden straws.

I tasted the brew which was body temperature warm and not the best tasting beer but it didn’t stop me from drinking my weight in it!

I also tried a local drink called Chimubucku which comes in a carton. This tasted like the local brew but was cold. We began drinking waragi with the locals all night which punished me with a killer hangover the next morning.

Researching into the devastating disease that has caused frustration and poverty of Ugandan coffee farmers has been a real eye-opener for me.

Surprisingly the Coffee Wilt Disease that I was told causes devastating effects is nothing compared to Coffee Twig Borer which causes the whole plant to wilt and die within the space of two weeks.

This discovery has led me to refocus my research on a small borer beetle responsible for the infection which gets inside of the twig and eats away the inside of the branches laying eggs as it does so. This is what farmers have been experiencing thinking that this was the Coffee Wilt Disease, as did I.

The effects of the beetle start with the leaves turning yellow, and the branches turning black. As the leaves start to fall from the tree the berries ripen and they also get infected and the berries become hollow.

The farmers told me about their ways of trying to prevent the disease which was received years ago from extension workers. This was the pruning and burning of the infected branches. This has reduced the amount of plants which have been affected but still is not solving the problem.

The government also had little input to help solve the problem of the disease only suggesting that the disease was becoming worse because of mixed farming – where farmers would also grow bananas in the same field as the coffee plant.

A welcomed break came in the form of a last minute camping trip to Sipi Falls around Mount Elgon, which borders Kenya. This trip was an opportunity to hike and rock climb as well as enjoy the beautiful views that Uganda has to offer.

We meandered around stunning waterfalls and hiked 8 km ending with a cheeky dip in the refreshing (absolutely freezing) waters at the top of the fall.

To top the day off, I stuffed my face with curry and chips, a real home comfort! 

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