Rebuilding Lives in Post-Conflict Uganda
Founded in 2009 by South African cotton entrepreneur Bruce Robertson, the Gulu Agricultural Development Company (GADC) is stimulating cotton growth in Uganda's impoverished Gulu district and creating economic opportunities for more than 40,000 smallholder farmers. GADC has received more than $3.5 million in financing over the past two years. Lending to GADC positively impacts the company's organic cotton output and helps civil war refugees in the region improve their livelihoods.
Farmer Profile: Richard and Erin Wilobo
Two years ago, Richard and Erin Wilobo returned to their land in the Gulu district of northern Uganda. Forced to flee their village years before in the wake of widespread violence instigated by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)—a brutal rebel group that waged Africa’s longest-running insurgency—they hoped that peace would mean leaving the indignities of life in an internally displaced person (IDP) camp and reclaiming their land and livelihoods.
Instead, they found an impoverished region wracked by the devastating effects of civil strife, a plight they shared with more than a million IDPs. Their house had been burned to the ground. Their few assets, mainly livestock and tools, were gone. With minimal access to seeds, markets, or credit, Richard, Erin, and their neighbors struggled to find hope and rebuild their livelihoods. Cotton had once been a reliable source of income for smallholder farmers like Richard, but the only commercial ginnery in the Gulu district had lain dormant since 1999.
To resurrect the local cotton ecosystem, Bruce Robertson founded the Gulu Agricultural Development Company (GADC). Bruce, a South African entrepreneur and chairman of the Uganda Ginners and Cotton Exporters Association, leased the Gulu ginnery in October of 2009 at the request of the Cotton Development Organization (CDO), a Ugandan government organization working to stimulate cotton growing in the Gulu district and improve household incomes. GADC has since rehabilitated the Gulu ginnery and thereby created economic opportunities for more than 40,000 smallholder farmers like Richard and Erin.Because of GADC’s work, Richard and Erin have also begun rebuilding their lives. During the cotton season, GADC trained Richard on effective harvesting and sorting techniques. He now produces quality cotton that he sells for premium prices. With this income, he plans to replace the livestock he lost after fleeing his home. Livestock is an important investment; it provides both a source of food as well as savings for sudden expenses like school fees for Richard’s six children.
*This syndicated loan totals $2.2M and is managed by Root Capital. The additional $800k loan capital is provided by Acumen Fund, a fellow member of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs.