Mujje Tulye from Uganda/Introduction to Uganda

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Uganda, land of beauty[edit | edit source]

Location of Uganda

Uganda, officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. It is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the southwest by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. Uganda is the world's second most populous landlocked country after Ethiopia. The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, shared with Kenya and Tanzania, situating the country in the African Great Lakes region.

Regional map of Uganda.

Uganda takes its name from the Buganda kingdom, which encompasses a large portion of the south of the country including the capital Kampala. The people of Uganda were hunter-gatherers until 1,700 to 2,300 years ago, when Bantu-speaking populations migrated to the southern parts of the country.

The country is located on the East African plateau. It averages about 1,100 metres (3,609 ft) above sea level, and this slopes very steadily downwards to the Sudanese Plain to the north. However, much of the south is poorly drained, while the centre is dominated by Lake Kyoga, which is also surrounded by extensive marshy areas. Uganda lies almost completely within the Nile basin. The Victoria Nile drains from Lake Victoria into Lake Kyoga and thence into Lake Albert on the Congolese border. It then runs northwards into South Sudan. One small area on the eastern edge of Uganda is drained by the Turkwel River, part of the internal drainage basin of Lake Turkana.

Although generally equatorial, the climate is not uniform as large variations in the altitude modify the climate. Southern Uganda is wetter with rain generally spread throughout the year. At Entebbe on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, most rain falls from March to June and in the November/December period. Further to the north a dry season gradually emerges; at Gulu about 120 km (75 mi) from the South Sudanese border, November to February is much drier than the rest of the year. The northeastern Karamoja region has the driest climate and is prone to droughts in some years. Rwenzori, a snowy peaked mountainous region on the southwest border with Congo (DRC), receives heavy rain all year.

The south of the country is heavily influenced by one of the world's biggest lakes, Lake Victoria, which contains many islands. It prevents temperatures from varying significantly and increases cloudiness and rainfall. Most important cities are located in the south, near Lake Victoria, including the capital Kampala and the nearby city of Entebbe.

Parallel with the state administration, five traditional Bantu kingdoms have remained, enjoying some degrees of mainly cultural autonomy. The kingdoms are Toro, Busoga, Bunyoro, Buganda and Rwenzururu.

Uganda has substantial natural resources, including fertile soils, regular rainfall, and sizeable mineral deposits of copper and cobalt. The country has largely untapped reserves of both crude oil and natural gas. While agriculture accounted for 56% of the economy in 1986, with coffee as its main export, it has now been surpassed by the services sector, which accounted for 52% of GDP in 2007.

Agriculture in Uganda[edit | edit source]

Graphical depiction of Uganda's product exports in 28 color-coded categories.
Pounding dried kidney beans

Uganda's favorable soil conditions and climate have contributed to the country's agricultural success. Most areas of Uganda usually receive plenty of rain. In some years, small areas of the southeast and southwest have averaged more than 150 millimeters per month. In the north, there is often a short dry season in December and January. Temperatures vary only a few degrees above or below 20°C but are moderated by differences in altitude.

These conditions have allowed continuous cultivation in the south but only annual cropping in the north, and the driest northeastern corner of the country has supported only pastoralism. Although population growth has created pressures for land in a few areas, land shortages have been rare, and only about one-third of the estimated area of arable land was under cultivation by 1989.

Uganda's main food crops have been plantains, cassava, sweet potatoes, millet, sorghum, corn, beans, and groundnuts. Major cash crops have been coffee, cotton, tea, and tobacco, although in the 1980s many farmers sold food crops to meet short-term expenses. The production of cotton, tea, and tobacco virtually collapsed during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Uganda's economy generates income from annual exports that include coffee ($466.6 million), tea ($72.1 million), fish ($136.2 million), and other products. Uganda's struggle to achieve their economic status was primarily due to decades of wars and corruption resulting in the nation being considered one of the poorest countries in the world.

General overview of Ugandan cuisine[edit | edit source]

Ugandan cuisine consists of traditional and modern cooking styles, practices, foods and dishes in Uganda, with English, Arab, and Asian cuisine (especially Indian cuisine) influences. Like the cuisines of most countries, it varies in complexity, from the most basic, a starchy filler with a sauce of beans or meat, to several-course meals served in upper-class homes and high-end restaurants. Most tribes in Uganda have their own speciality dish or delicacy.

Overview of Ugandan Cuisine History[edit | edit source]

The basic history of Uganda is a rather sad one. Indigenous kingdoms flooded in Uganda in the 12th century. Among them were the Buganda, Bunyoro, Toro, Ankole and Busoga. As the centuries passed, the Buganda people dominated the kingdom. The tribes in Uganda has plenty of time to chalk out their hierarchies as there was little incursion of Uganda from the outside until the 19th century. In spite of the fertility of the land and its capacity to grow surplus crops there were no trading links with the East African coast. Then finally contacts were made with the Arab traders and European explorers in the mid-19th century. As these traders stormed Uganda, they brought along with them their own customs and traditions which influenced Uganda’s own customs and traditions, relating to everything, from food, shelter to even clothes. After the Treaty of Berlin that took place in 1980, that treated resulted in defining the various European countries’ spheres of influence in Uganda as it became one of the British protectorates. The colonial administrators brought in coffee and cotton as cash crops. The Ugandan cuisine is traditional, yet with Uganda’s historical background, we are not too surprised to see the influence it has had on its traditional cuisine.

Cuisines of Uganda[edit | edit source]

A rich Ugandan traditional meal of sima/ ugali (cooked white mealie meal) with chapati (thin rounded roti), matoke (mashed green bananas), sugar beans, mboga (green vegetables) and goat meat steamed in and served in a bowl wrapped around green banana leaves
African Tea Spices...with these, you definitely cannot go wrong, as the exquisite taste, aroma and relaxing sensation send you to a tastefully different world...

There are various cuisines in the Cuisine of Uganda. Most of them being extremely traditional, however some out influenced due to its history of invasions. Nevertheless, you are most likely to find yummy banana dishes, stews, pastes and juicy fruits and drinks in the Ugandan Cuisine. Uganda’s culture weaves a thread of diversity not only through the manner of dress, language and various other features but also in its variety of dishes. Most of the tribes in Uganda have their own delicacy or speciality. Most of the dishes in the Ugandan cuisine are prepared from numerous vegetables, yams, potatoes, bananas and other tropical fruits.

Cooking traditional and authentic Ugandan cuisine requires some tact. One extremely popular dish in the Ugandan cuisine is matooke which is made from bananas of the plantain type and is cooked or boiled in a sauce of peanuts, fresh fish, meat or entrails. Matooke goes really well with any relish. Most of the tribes in Uganda eat their fish either smoked or fresh where as the others dry it after washing it in a salt solution and drying it in the sun for days. Sun-dried fish is a scrumptious dish in the Ugandan cuisine. There are great tasting authentic and traditional cuisines in the cuisines of Uganda, which need special skill and delicacy to prepare for complete enjoyment of the cuisine.

Main dishes are usually centred on a sauce or stew of groundnuts, beans or meat. The starch traditionally comes from ugali (maize meal) in the North, South and East, matoke (a boiled and mashed green banana) in Central Uganda, or an ugali made from millet in the West and Northwest. For main meals, white flour is added to the saucepan and stirred into the ugali until the consistency is firm. It is then turned out onto a serving plate and cut into individual slices (or served onto individual plates in the kitchen). Cassava, yam, and African sweet potato are also eaten; the more affluent include white (often called "Irish") potato and rice in their diets. Soybeans were promoted as a healthy food staple in the 1970s and are also used especially for breakfast. Chapati, an Asian flatbread, is also part of Ugandan cuisine.
Various leafy greens are grown in Uganda. These may be boiled in the stews, or served as side dishes in fancier homes. Amaranth (dodo), nakati, and borr are examples of regional greens. Fruits such as bananas and pineapples are plentiful and commonly consumed; cooked in foods, eaten as snacks or as a dessert. Sesame-honey candies are also eaten. Chicken, fish (usually fresh, but there is also a dried variety, reconstituted for stewing), beef, goat and mutton are all commonly eaten, although among the rural poor, meats are consumed less than in other areas, and mostly eaten in the form of bushmeat.

Examples of dishes[edit | edit source]

Some traditional and historic Ugandan foods include:

  • Posho or Kawunga - called Ugali in Kenya, it is usually made from maize but also other starches, regional names include kwon. Ugandan expatriates make posho from cornmeal, masa harina or grits. Kwon is a type of ugali made from millet (called kale in western Uganda) but in other regions like eastern Uganda they include cassava flour.
  • Groundnuts (peanuts) - groundnuts are a vital staple and groundnut sauce is probably the most commonly eaten one. They are eaten plain or mixed with smoked fish, smoked meat or mushrooms, and can also be mixed with greens such as borr.
  • Sim-sim (sesame) - A staple particularly in the north, roasted sesame paste is mixed into a stew of beans or greens and served as a side dish, though sesame paste may also be served as a condiment; a candy is made from roasted sesame seeds with sugar or honey.
  • Matoke - Mashed plantain boiled or cooked in a sauce of peanuts, fresh fish, and/or meat
  • Luwombo - A traditional dish from Uganda, in which a stew of either chicken, beef, mushrooms or fish is steamed in banana leaves
  • Malewa - A traditional dish from eastern Uganda (Bugisu), made from bamboo shoots

Commons snacks include:

  • Roasted groundnuts (peanuts) - served in a spill of paper
  • Samosa (samousa, samosa) - Indian samosas are highly assimilated into the local cuisine, as are chapati and curry
  • Mugati naamaggi (bread and eggs) - Originally an Arab dish, it's wheat dough spread into a thin pancake, filled with minced meat and raw egg, and then folded into a neat parcel and fried on a skillet or hotplate.
  • Nsenene - an unusual food item, which is a seasonal delicacy of a type of grasshopper
  • Nswaa - served similarly to nsenene but made of white ant, a termite
  • Rolex - a chapati filled with eggs, onions, tomatoes, cabbage or kale, and sometimes minced meat

Tea (Masala chai) and coffee (kawa) are popular beverages and important cash crops. These can be served English-style or spiced (chai masala). Coca-cola, Pepsi and Fanta all made inroads in the Ugandan market and soft drinks became very popular. Both traditional and Western beers are probably the most widely available alcoholic beverages across Uganda. Pombe and lubisi are generic words for locally made fermented beer, usually from banana or millet. Fermented banana wine is also prepared and consumed. Tonto is a traditional fermented drink made from bananas.

Ugandan Food Traditions and Festivals[edit | edit source]

2013 edd celebration in Uganda

Uganda’s population is made up of a complex and highly diverse range of tribes. Each tribe has its musical history; songs are passed down from generation to generation. The contrasts between the various people of Uganda reflect not only a variety of surrounding that are demonstrated in the multiplicity of cultures, traditions and lifestyles but also in the food traditions and festivals of the country. The heritage of Ugandans food traditions and festivals lives on in the hearts of the people through traditional activities and especially their food traditions and festivals which have been passed down through history. Many of the famous food traditions and festivals take place during their customs of traditional activities, such as dances, songs, weddings etc. Oluwombo or Luwombo is a traditional dish from Uganda commonly seen in their food traditions and other festivals. This dish is both a classic dish of Royal dinners and a dish popular throughout Uganda, especially at holiday time. It is often said that oluwombo dates to 1887. The basic banana-leaf cooking method for this dish has been common across tropical Africa for centuries and is also much used wherever bananas or plantains are grown. Certainly the food tradtions and festivals of Uganda are highly unique.

Sources[edit | edit source]