Country Listing

Uganda Table of Contents



The Bagisu (people of Bugisu) constitute roughly 5 percent of the population. They occupy the well-watered western slopes of Mount Elgon, where they grow millet, bananas, and corn for subsistence, and coffee and cotton as cash crops. Bugisu has the highest population density in the nation, rising to 250 per square kilometer. As a result, almost all land in Bugisu is cultivated, and land pressure causes population migration and social conflicts.

A large number of Bagisu were drawn into the cash economy in 1912, with the organization of smallholder production of arabica coffee and the extension of Uganda's administrative network into Bugisu. After that, the Bagisu were able to exploit their fertile environment by producing large amounts of coffee and threatening to withhold their produce from the market when confronted with unreasonable government demands. One of the mechanisms for organizing coffee production was the Bugisu Cooperative Union (BCU), which became one of the most powerful and most active agricultural cooperatives in Uganda. Bugisu's economic strength was based in part on the fact that coffee grown on Mount Elgon was of the highest quality in Uganda, and total output in this small region constituted more than 10 percent of the coffee produced nationwide (see Crops , ch. 3).

Land pressure during the early decades of colonial rule caused the Bagisu to move northward, impinging on the territory of the Sebei people, who have fought against Gisu dominance for over a century. The Bagwere and Bakedi people to the south have also claimed distinct cultural identities and have sought political autonomy.

Data as of December 1990