Uganda: Kapchorwa Ready to Marry Its Sports Popularity With Tourism Potential

21 November 2021

Dark clouds seem to move in tandem with the fairly strong winds. As we ascend the sprawling hills of Kapchorwa, the eyes rise sideways. Children playing at the early evening hour, stop to wave at the two omnibuses going uphill.

We smile at each other, and some run behind the vehicles.

Behind them, undulating hills standing beautifully against the clouds that are threatening to explode with a downpour.

Down the hills, are terraces with gardens, houses with shiny iron sheet tops and a few animals, as seen from a distance.

At the hilltop, men in tattered clothes tend goats. Vehicles draw their curiosity. Some stop and others rest their chins on their grazing sticks.

Chilly winds waft through but rural folks stay still. At the hilltop one cannot miss misty Mountain Elgon with ranges barely visible at dusk.

Therein, lies the eight-metre caldera and high peak-Wagagai. As we take in the beauty, Isaac Chemonges smiles and introduces himself as a young man from 'A place of friends'. Then, breaks into hearty laughter.

"A place of friends is the literal meaning of Kapchorwa," he explains, before adding that he is a tourism officer.

Land of champions

Animatedly, he turns his back to show me the words on his cardigan. They read: 'Welcome to the land of champions'. Indeed, Kapchorwa is the birthplace of champions such as Stephen Kiprotich, Joshua Cheptegei, Peruth Chemutai, Jacob Kiplimo and Moses Kipsiro.

Minutes into breaking the ice, Cheptegei arrives, steps out of his SUV, and exchanges pleasantries, first in the local dialect with residents before proceeding to say hello to board members of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) who are there to pay a courtesy call. He is their tourism ambassador. We stand at an athletes facility under construction by the government from where we are guided to the Joshua Cheptegei Training Centre he is constructing.

While there, Cheptegei talks about the need to create synergies between sports and tourism, an agreeable proposition since the area has some pristine travel attractions, including the scenic Sipi Falls.

Tourism and sports

There, Alfred Tunde Masau, Kapchorwa's sports officer, makes a case for sports tourism.

"Our sports achievement is related to our culture and heritage. There is need to bond our cultural heritage and tourism. I am proud to come from a community that produces gold medallists that make our nation proud locally and internationally," he explains.

He calls on UTB to erect billboards depicting the potential of the district, partnership with the elite athletes from the region, strengthening the capacity of hotel business in the area through training in hospitality and quality service. Meanwhile, Chemonges signals me to further our conversation.

"Running has been a way of life for the Sabiny. Most recently, sports has become so popular that it climaxed with the wins in the 2012 London Summer Olympics, 2013 World Championships and several others wins climaxed by the Tokyo 2020 Olympics where Uganda won a record four medals, all from athletes from Sebei Sub-region."

The tourism officer , says hospitality and recreational facilities have had to cope with the emerging pressure from domestic and international visitors.

Knowledge

Later that evening we meet and chat with Job Soyekwo, one of the most enthusiastic guides. He is inspired by the love and passion to guide tourists to different destinations in Uganda, as well as preserving nature. From him, one learns about Sipi Falls. "Sipi domestically came from the description of a wild banana (Abyssinian banana) which grows around the river banks of Sipi which means the river," he explains.

Sipi falls is a series of three waterfalls that cascade from the top of Mount Elgon which make it the greatest hiking area, as a starting point, to the top of Elgon, offering some of the most iconic and eye-catching views of the surrounding.

Soyekwo says Kapchorwa is one of the perfect destinations to visit because of the landscape, waterfalls, and one of the finest coffee is grown here," he explains.

On the whole, Chemonges hopes investment in tourism and hospitality training facilities in the Sebei Sub-region, will ensure locals start earning a source of livelihood from the sector.

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