Uganda: Why Elephante Commons Provides Free Space for Gulu Local Leaders
The Director of Operations of Elephante Commons says their main purpose is to provide space to local leaders including entrepreneurs and nonprofits to nurture them to become strong to help their communities.
On July 1, 2020, Gulu in Northern Uganda’s Acholi Sub-region became a regional city alongside Arua, Jinja, Mbarara, Fort Portal, Mbale, and Masaka.
This development caused prices of rent to go up and sadly unaffordable for entrepreneurs starting out.
Office space in Gulu City ranges from UGX 300,000 to UGX 6 million depending on location and size.
Fortunately for some entrepreneurs, Elephante Commons, a charity organization in 2020 opened up free space for them to see their ideas come to life.
The development organization that fundraises funds from the United States annually to support local leaders in Gulu, is currently providing space to at least 18 organizations.
[Inside Elephante Commons. Photo/Courtesy]
Gladys Orombi is the Director of Operations at Elephante Commons which is located in the heart of Gulu City.
Orombi says their main purpose is to provide space to local leaders including entrepreneurs and nonprofits to nurture them to become strong to help their communities.
“We believe that it's local people who can help their people better because they are the ones who know the problems they are facing,” Orombi said adding that we also help them in networking and marketing their projects and businesses.
Orombi said that every year, people apply to get space.
“We assess whether they fit in our mission before we give them space. We cater to all their utilities. Most of these partners just have an idea on paper that they want to implement. Hence, it’s our responsibility to ensure that they make their idea a reality by helping them become better managers and network with potential donors,” she said.
[One of the hostel rooms that Elephante Commons operates to be able to self-sustain. Photo/Courtesy]
One such beneficiary is Loremi Tours, a local tour operating company that uses the space at Elephante as an office to hold art exhibitions.
Adyero Gloria Barbara, the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Loremi Tours say through the partnership with Elephante Commons that started this year, artisans are able to use space free of charge to exhibit their work.
She said that nearly 300 local artisans have been able to showcase their work through the themed exhibitions.
“Most local artisans don’t have proper galleries to exhibit their work and are therefore unable to reach the market. Most times artisans such as pot makers get low pay for their products or are told to wait before they are paid but Exhibitions provide a ready market for products,” she said.
Adyero explains that their goal is to integrate tourism as a sustainable means of livelihood in Uganda by focusing on protecting both natural and cultural resources in Northern Uganda.
“Our way of doing that is through developing experiences and identifying little-known attractions in the region and adding value to them so that they can benefit the community directly. When local communities are directly benefiting from a tourist attraction, they are able to protect it,” she said.
Adyero adds that “People’s perception of tourism is visiting the National parks but beyond that, there are different attractions we have which we are now identifying for promotion. The most popular one in the region right now is Aruu Falls but there was also a time people did not know about it.”
Aruu Falls is located in the Pader district, about 47 km from Gulu.
She noted that tourists traveling to Kidepo National Park in Kotido district and Murchison Falls National Park rarely stop over in Gulu because there are few tourist activities in place.
“We hope to collaborate with tour companies from Kampala because we already have experiences outside of the National park that tour operators can stop over for. We hope to make the Gulu Art Exhibition one of those experiences tourists will be willing to travel for.”
Brenda Atimango Ruth, a painter and crafts maker who currently has no personal shop to display her work said the exhibitions have given her exposure and an opportunity to meet new people.
The art exhibitions which usually start at 4:00pm to 8:00pm have attracted over 800 people and there are plans to have them take place for a whole day.
To ensure sustainability, Elephante Commons operates a café, a hostel to cater to travelers who don’t mind sharing a room, and a small theatre among other amenities.
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