GLOFORD INSTITUTE OF INNOVATION
Founder: Morris Chris Ongom CEO
Start date: Nov 13, 2019
Location: Lira City, Western Division
Location: Lira City – Division Western
Business Focus: Grain bulking, promotion of production of maize and soya-beans and provision of access to profitable markets to small-holder farmers in Kole,Alebtong,Oyam, Dokolo and Lira districts.
Gloford Institute of Innovation is a social agribusiness working in the post-war region of Northern Uganda. The agribusiness supports farmers in production, post-harvest handling and marketing with a vision to establish a value addition as a short-term goal, and guarantee market value for the smaller holder farmers in the long term. Gloford works with 3322 farmers: 1872 male; 1450 female; and, 1373 youth.
The agribusiness supports smallholder farmers with production and enhances quality at post-harvest handling in preparation for marketing. Farmers are trained on the agronomy of soil, beans and maize, climate-smart agricultural models, farming as a business, market management for smaller holder farmers, and post-harvest handling.
Founded in 2010, Gloford started as a charity organization working with smallholder farmers. However, as a non-profit, the organisation found it hard to build business models that would benefit the farmers. In 2016, the C.E.O, Morris Chris Ongom engaged with an American mission in the redevelopment of ideas and strategies for northern Uganda
“We were shocked with the statistics of the region. An inclusive analysis that was done to inform the Northern Uganda regional Development strategy by district, showed that out of the 10 poorest districts in Uganda, 6 were from Northern Uganda. The question was, there have been projects, investments and grants in the region, what could be stalling progress?” Ongom states. He adds it’s at this point that Ongom and his team realised that much needed to be done to strengthen human capacity to develop their community.
“The farmers have the land but are poor; they are hardworking; gaining from their sweat was a challenge without knowing how to get a market that works for them,” he narrates.
A number of farmers that Gloford works with believed for a long time that market was a ‘miracle’ and not something that one works towards. They sold poor quality grain or sometimes had little to sell because they lacked business skills and the right attitude towards marketing their produce.
It’s against this background that Ongom was inspired to work with the community and add value to the work that the farmers were doing to improve their income and their standards of living. In 2016, a partner came along to support the intervention. It was agreed that together, they would mobilize at least 200 farmers to support. They also identified soybeans as the main grain because it is a determinant of the wealth of the Northern region. The Gloford team was set to operate in an area where framers were unprotected.
On November 13, 2019, Gloford was incorporated to work with smallholder farmers. Just like any start-up, there was a need for starting capital. Gloford was fortunate enough to benefit from blended finance support – a grant and some money the organisation had available. The aim of starting this business arm of the organisation was to involve farmers in profitable engagement through agri-business.
“We wanted to build a social enterprise that would engage and drive the local community development, and see many become hopeful through the tool of agribusinesses,” says the Gloford C.E.O, adding, “we organised them in the value chain and were on site with extension services that were much needed for the farmers. In the first round, we had a contract with Mt Meru but, couldn’t afford grain. we fell flat and learned how middlemen manipulate smaller holder farmers -they buy the grain way before harvest,” Ongom narrates.
It wasn’t too long until Gloford was hit hard. In 2020, the agribusiness had 100 of metric tonnes of grain in Kenya yet the market was on lockdown and borders were closed. Internally, they could only send a few metric tonnes, but, didn’t have money to add value to the product. This was worsened by the bean weavers that infested the grain. The partner agreed with Glofford to sell at a loss and send back the money.
In 2020, after Ongom and his team reflected on the lessons learned, they were able to operate differently. They set out to change the mindset of the community that, “farming is not cursed as thought, but rather, an attractive activity in which young people and women work hard through the seasons years.
Not only does Gloford provide grain to registered farmers, but, it offers better prices than the market. They have recorded a number of stories of change and integration of farming among families. The business trains farmers to associate fairly; farmers now agree on common goals; and, are patient with each.
The agri-business has been hesitant to acquire commercial loans in anticipation of an alternative to financing that would suit their socially impacted business model. Today, Gloford is ready to build its capacity and business model and get the right capital for the right investment.
Ongom envisions enhancing the capacity of his team, maintaining a team of staff that are fairly well-motivated, and securing support that can sustain the organisation.
In the next five years, Ongom hopes to have established value addition; export maize, soybeans and other products; establish a business that is profitable and with a steady cash flow; and provide a market for their farmers.