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Of Primates And Percolators: Student Pursues Research In Wilds Of Uganda


Grace Brown is exploring the connection between coffee and gorillas.

Brown, a third-year University of Virginia student majoring in history and American studies (with a minor in social entrepreneurship), spent a month this summer in Uganda working with coffee farmers in the village of Buhoma and monitoring the health of a nearby gorilla population. As an entrepreneur, she is also trying to broker a deal with a Ugandan coffee co-op to simultaneously draw more attention to the gorillas’ plight and put more money in Ugandan farmers’ pockets.

For years, the coffee farmers entered the nearby Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – home to about 400 mountain gorillas, or approximately half the world’s population – to hunt and gather firewood to survive, because they were not making enough money on their coffee. The mountain gorillas also left the forest to scavenge coffee berries on the plantations. This cross-contact raised health problems for the gorillas, as humans can transmit parasites to mountain gorilla populations.

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