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Formerly displaced Ugandan farmers reclaim their land with training and market access from TRAIL

Bruce Robertson
McNulty Prize

When the Lord’s Resistance Army left northern Uganda in 2006 after 20 years, Bruce Robertson founded the Gulu Agricultural Development Company (GADC) to invest in cotton production, a crop for which the local climate is exceptionally suited. Decades of the LRA’s brutal insurgency resulted in widespread neglect of Northern Uganda’s farmland as families were internally displaced. Due to the long duration of the LRA’s guerilla operations, farming knowledge was also lost as an entire generation grew up separated from their families’ land.

Farmers trained by TRAIL, with each farmer representing a household of 8-10 people.
Metric tons of organic cotton processed in 2017, versus 0 in 2014-15.
Increase in crop yields from farmers trained by TRAIL, and a 50% increase in income.
Training fundamentally alters farmers' economic prospects. While NGOs can train farmers, they cannot buy crops, so farmers are left stranded. This is not charity. These farmers are meeting a need.

Bruce Robertson

Laureate_Bruce-Robertson_headshot.jpg#asset:977After building GADC, a successful agriculture business, Bruce decided to invest further in the smallholder farmers in the region through TRAIL (Transforming Agriculture for Improved Livelihoods). TRAIL is a train-the-trainer model in which ‘lead farmers’ train their peers in site selection, integrated pest management, organic practices, marketing, and financial literacy. Yields have doubled, and incomes for the smallholder farmers have increased by 50%, while higher quality means farmers can charge 30% more for their goods. It is a win-win operation, since GADC needs inputs to sell cotton, sesame, chili and other organic crops on the world market, and Ugandan farmers see more income and stability, access to credit, and crop diversification and training.

Furthermore, with 3,000 refugees streaming across the border a day from South Sudan, GADC and TRAIL are poised to play a larger role in the region to share their agricultural expertise and access to international markets.

1986-2006: Joseph Kony leads the Lord’s Resistance Army, a brutal rebel group, that would ravage the country, mostly in the north.

2009: Agriculture expert Bruce Robertson founds the Gulu Agricultural Development Company to invest in cotton production and other crops in Uganda.

2014: Bruce Robertson makes a pledge to train 35,000 farmers. In 2017, TRAIL has already trained 60,000.

2014: Sweden’s government invests $2.4 million in TRAIL, matched by GADC, and in partnership with Mercy Corps.

Amount of loan finance TRAIL disburses every year to help farmers plant and plan more efficiently.
1 Million
South Sudanese refugees settled in 2016. TRAIL will train families to use their new half-acre.
Employees of GADC, by far Northern Uganda’s largest employer.
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