Gifts that give back

Gifts that give back

One of the things I like most about life in Uganda is the short-chain between products, producers, and consumers. While the rest of the world finds novelty in ideas like “farm-to-table,” and “meet-the-artist,” we tend to discover these at nearly every turn.

Similarly, the proximity between fundraisers and fund-recipients is often blessedly visible here. As we lead up to the festive season, I wanted to give a shout-out to just some of the organizations and companies which function from places of self-sustainability and giving-back! (I’d love to hear about others you may know. If you’ll send them to me at, I’ll post them as well.) Keep all of these in mind as you shop, travel, and give this season.

NGO-Owned Businesses

Income-generating projects have been around for a long time, but like all other sectors, this one has seen a major shift post-pandemic. There are many which export Ugandan crafts and products to raise funds, but there are also some which produce-locally and sell-locally, putting 100% of the profits right back into their budget of service. These are just a few:


The Mbuyu Foundation has two such businesses:

Mbuyu Catering & Events

Mbuyu Catering & Events emerged from The Mbuyu Foundation’s, Skills for Life Catering & Events Class. One-hundred-percent of profits go back into running the skills programs for men and women living in the Katanga slum in Kampala. They create impressive and delicious cakes (it’s hard to achieve both qualities in a cake—yet they do just that), catering, and very festive décor for all your events, from large weddings to intimate parties at home. “And whether you want some finger food platters dropped off, or a full buffet dinner-plan—from set-up to clean-up—we can make it happen,” says Director Leah Makanda. They also do in-home cooking classes for children.

Mbuyu Designs

Mbuyu Designs offers a fresh and unique catalogue of jewellery, overnight bags, travel-pillows, Christmas stockings and wreaths, sweaters, denim jackets and much more.

To see more of their offerings:

Tel:+256 787 347170, |  Facebook | Instagram

Mbuyu catering
Mbuyu catering
Mbuyu Designs
Mbuyu Designs


Hand-sewn and hand-quilted by women in the villages of Gulu, these creations are three-layers each, with batting (fiber) in the middle, and are made exclusively with African fabrics. All profits go directly to the woman who made the quilt; 15% is used to purchase fabric, batting and other sewing supplies for the next quilt. NUWOCSI participates in the Christmas markets in the Kampala area, and also delivers directly to you from Gulu, and they ship internationally. Available in all sizes, from wall hangings to king-sized-bed. Prices range from UGX 75,000 to 325,000.

To see current offerings:

You can see current offerings on their Facebook page, or by inquiring via WhatsApp. WhatsApp +256 0729 2419577 | Facebook

Doll Quilt
Doll quilt
Fish Quilt
Fish Quilt

USPCA Shelter & Gift Shop

The Uganda Society for the Protection and Care of Animals rescues dogs and cats, provides community clinics and services, veterinary-care, and even a gift shop with beds, collars and toys for your fur baby. Please note that “as a surprise, a new pet is not usually a good gift idea,” offers a USPCA volunteer. “It’s best for the recipient to come and personally find their new friend right here at the shelter. Everyone is welcome.” Adoption fees are very affordable, and ensure that your new pet is spayed/neutered, fully-vaccinated, and ready for their new home. But there are many ways to include the USPCA this season!

Get in touch:

Tel: +256 772 403789  |  Facebook

Gifts for pets & Pet accessories
Gifts for pets: Pet accessories
Gifts for pets Dog and cat beds
Gifts for pets: Dog and cat beds

The AidChild Equator Shop

Proudly the first business at the equator line on Masaka Road, AidChild brought water, electricity and jobs to the whole village—thanks to a grant from USAID—more than 20 years ago. AidChild remains one of Uganda’s only galleries of original art outside of Kampala, the gift shop features one-of-a-kind gift hampers and crafts, while the café offers favorites like jumbo muffins and tortilla soup, as well as a number of vegan and gluten-free options. The organization practices fair-trade, does not import from factories abroad, and is the equator’s only eco-friendly business. One hundred percent of AidChild’s profits have always gone to medication and to scholarships for students living with HIV. (Full disclosure, this writer founded AidChild.) 

Get in touch:

Contact: | Tel: +256 780 282697 | Facebook | Instagram

AidChild Equator Shop
AidChild Equator Shop
AidChild Equator Shop 2
AidChild Equator Shop

Privately-Owned Businesses with a Mission

Gorilla Conservation Coffee

When considering the long list of impressive successes of Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Uganda’s first wildlife veterinarian, it really should be no surprise that she has also founded and owns an award-winning premium- and specialty-coffee company. In addition to paying an above-market price to marginalized, smallholder coffee farmers living around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Dr. Gladys also donates some of her proceeds to support the gorilla-conservation and community-health programs of Conservation Through Public Health (

You can find this delicious coffee—in its eco-friendly, brown-paper packaging—at the outlets listed here:

Gorilla Conservation Coffee Packets
Gorilla Conservation Coffee Packets
Floating and sorting the coffee
Floating and sorting the coffee

Kyaninga Lodge

Nestled on the edge of an extinct volcanic crater lake at the foot of the Rwenzori Mountains near Fort Portal, what makes the stunning Kyaninga Lodge truly special is its heart. Since 2013, the owners have given all available resources to start—and maintain—Kyaninga Child Development Centre. The centre provides physical, occupational, speech and language therapy, orthopaedic services, special educational support, nutrition support and distribution of essential epilepsy medications to children with a wide range of physical, intellectual and communication disabilities in rural western Uganda. The lodge also recently helped build the Kyaninga Mobility Workshop, provided an inclusive school, and started a Street Business School arm of the centre—which gives carers the chance to become successful business women.

Kyaninga Lodge 15% discount offering

from the 15th of November to the 15th of December 2023

Why not include a stay with them in your festive season plans and gift-giving! | +256 741 919 500 | Facebook | Instagram

kyaninga lodge (photo by KL)
Aerial view of Kyaninga Lodge (photo by KL)

Companies that Care

Equator Chocolate practices fair trade, locally sources all ingredients and packaging, and is recognized by Slave Free Chocolate for its ethical supply chain. +256 783 104217 |

Experience Uganda is a “destination management company” which creates and operates tailor-made safaris in Uganda for travel companies around the world. They donate $15 from every booking to the Uganda Conservation Foundation. |  +256 788 714 587, experience.uganda.safaris (i), experienceug (f).

Manya Africa Tours is a founding member of the Exclusive Sustainable Tour Operators Association (ESTOA), demonstrating a commitment to protecting the environment at every turn. +256 775 554791, @ManyaAfricaTours (f), (i).

Simplifi Networks is a distributor of network and communications equipment for East Africa with multiple community projects including the ongoing maintenance of a bridge connecting Kitintale to Bugolobi for the local community access, working with universities to improve ICT marketable skills for students, empowering Boda Boda riders to acquire their own bikes with zero-interest loans, and a jolly Santa Claus who visits community groups., @SimplifiNetwork (X).

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