On The Ground


A Farmer Returns After Twenty Years of Displacement

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting an agribusiness in Northern Uganda – a region with a deep history of strife and resilience. In 1988, conflict began in Uganda between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a sectarian religious and military group. As the conflict escalated, the government forced masses of people into camps under its “protected villages” policy of 1996.

The government repeated the measure in 2002 and 2004, during heightened military operations against the LRA. Removed from their homes, businesses, and the places they knew, these citizens were uprooted from their previous lives, officially becoming internally displaced persons (IDP).

The road from Kampala was excellent, and the population grew more and more sparse as we traveled north. The land grew greener by the mile, however, we noticed that very little of it was actually under cultivation.

We visited a factory that had been deserted at points during the insurgency that had plagued the region, and at one time the rebels had even been sleeping inside the company’s warehouses. However, now that peace has returned to the region, the population has begun to leave the camps and return to their farms. Yet as the conflict lasted for over 20 years, farms hadn’t been cultivated for a generation.

We traveled the (no longer so good) roads to speak with some of these farmers, who were required to keep records of their productivity, and I asked farmer after farmer why they hadn’t noted any crops last year.  “We have only just come back from the camps,” they said.

We had visited with several farmers and it was getting late in the day, so the field manager suggested we head back to town.  One of the field officers insisted that we visit one last farmer.

“He is so excited for us to visit,” she said. “He would never forgive me if we didn’t visit his farm.”  As we skidded down the muddy roads to his farm, we stopped at a bridge that was flooded from the previous night’s rains.  So, we took off our shoes, rolled up our pants, and waded through.  On the other side of the valley, we met Joseph Okwera, a 73-year-old farmer who had only just returned to his farm after over twenty years in an IDP camp.

As we approached his farm, we yelled out greetings, but Joseph, who is somewhat hard of hearing, was focused on hoeing his plot and didn’t turn around.  When he finally did, his dropped his hoe and ran to greet us with an enthusiasm that was only outmatched by his smile.

The field officer communicated to him in Acholi, and we learned that Joseph had returned this season and cleared the 20-year-old brush from his land.  He tilled the land with his hoe and had planted seeds.  Though he was only farming 0.4 acres, he had big plans.  He stretched his arm out to show us the land he would clear and plant, by his own hands, for next season.  His 74th year.

Amon Anderson is an Acumen Fund Portfolio Associate in East Africa.


Reflections on the India Fellows Seminar

Each year, the India Fellows Program brings together up to 20 emerging leaders from different regions, sectors, and socio-economic backgrounds in India. During the fellowship year, Fellows remain in their jobs and meet every 6-8 weeks throughout the year for 4 seminars and 2 collaborative projects, each about a week long. As the India Fellows Associate, Jacqui is responsible for supporting all aspects of the program recruitment, logistics, marketing and strategic planning. Below, Jacqui reflects on the first seminar, Foundations of Leadership. You can read more about the fellowship program here[Read More]

Adaptive Leadership in Action: Addressing Cultural Norms & Giving Women a Voice

In the fall of 2013, +Acumen launched the course Adaptive Leadership: Mobilizing for Change in partnership with the Cambridge Leadership Associates. This course is for anyone who wants to become more effective at leading their organization through change. Below, one of the course participants shared her story about how this course impacted her work and ability to affect change. [Read More]

Making Sense of Social Impact in Action: The Value of Educating Our Youth

At Acumen, one of the most common questions we get is how we measure social impact. Our newest +Acumen course – Making Sense of Social Impact: Acumen’s Building Blocks for Impact Analysis. – will provide an entry point for how to think about impact and we’ll share frameworks that help us define what to measure and why. Makoto Matsuura, founder of cobon a not-for-profit focused on youth education in Jakarta, Indonesia and Osaka, Japan, took a pilot version of this course and shared his reflections with us. [Read More]

Good news for philanthropists in the U.K. and Europe

We are excited to announce that Acumen now holds a CAF Charitable Trust in the United Kingdom. CAF, the Charities Aid Foundation, is a registered U.K. charity. By donating to Acumen through CAF, you can use Gift Aid if the amount of Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax you’ve paid for the tax year in which you make your donation is at least equal to the amount of basic rate tax  [the charity or Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASCs) and any other charities or CASCs] you donate to will reclaim on your gift. CAF will reclaim 25% Gift Aid from HM Revenue & Customs and pass this through to Acumen.  The donor can claim higher rate tax relief (for more information, please refer to CAF’s online resource, What Is Gift Aid?). [Read More]

d.light Leaders Named 2014 Social Entrepreneurs of the Year

We are thrilled for our portfolio company d.light and Donn Tice, Chairman and CEO, along with cofounders Ned Tozun, President, and Sam Goldman, Chief Customer Officer, for being named Social Entrepreneurs of the year 2014 by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. d.light is a for-profit social enterprise that manufactures and distributes solar lighting and power products with primary markets in the developing world, today announced that d.light, along with 37 other individuals and organizations in the 2014 class, will be fully integrated into the events and initiatives of the World Economic Forum. [Read More]