How WARC Began
Emiliano Mroue (Founder and CEO)
I grew up in a small town in the Argentine pampas, but with a curiosity about the world, as a young adult I soon found myself travelling around the world, exposing myself to social extremes. My first extreme experience was when I spent over 4 hours at 50 degrees Celsius, deep in the bottom of a claustrophobic silver mine in Bolivia. I could not understand how the miners could suffer such harsh conditions and give away their lives for just a few dollars, but well, I was 17, and I did not understand much of anything.
23-year old me at the Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan
After studying business economics in Argentina, I chose the "easy way", the traditional way, and continued my studies in Germany, where I quickly enough found a job in a multinational. My job was great, but deep inside me, I felt I was not wired for the usual suit & tie type of life. I used most of my annual 6 weeks of holidays to travel the world. That took me to faraway places, and to more extreme experiences. I was refused entry into Egypt from Israel, so when I finally made it in, I ended up sleeping in the street in Taba. I went deep inside a refugee camp near Kabul and backpacked all the way up to Mazar-i-Sharif. I sailed in a rocky dhow for four hours from Ilha do Ibo to Pangane in northern Mozambique. I was looking for something, but I still did not know what it was. Until I went backpacking to Sierra Leone in 2010.
On this trip, I visited a remote national park in Northern Sierra Leone, and that is where I met Dayo. We spoke for hours and hours and somehow he ignited a spark in me — he made me think I might have finally found what I was looking for this whole time, the purpose I struggled so much to put in words. I left Dayo behind, alone in the park, but I promised I'd be back. I promised; we together, would do something for the rural poor in Sierra Leone. And so it was.
I convinced my cousin Patricio to leave his amazing life back in Argentina and join me in this seemingly stupid idea. He and I decided we would give it a try. We wired Dayo US $10,000 so that he could start a small rice farm. There went most of our savings, but also the start of a dream. A few months later in October of 2011 we joined Dayo in Sierra Leone and we moved to Kamakwie. We knew little about doing business in Africa, about farming or about starting up a company for that matter, but something very strong pushed us forward.
A few years later we discovered Tormabum and things were going pretty well. External investors were supporting our silly idea and we were growing big. We had hundreds of employees and impacted many more. But, in July 2014, things spiraled out of control. Ebola broke out, and with that the suffering of entire nations, the unnecessary loss of life and the total financial collapse of our company.
Cooking pasta in Kamakwie
Also in 2014, family issues pushed Patricio to go back to Argentina. I was tempted, too, but ultimately decided to stay in Sierra Leone and move forward with rebuilding the company. Early 2015 was our toughest time. I found myself alone, in a country torn apart by Ebola, virtually with no cash to pay even a small group of employees. This proved more than anything the incredible sense of loyalty of our key staff, who decided to hang on and see how things would go. The country started to get Ebola under control, and we managed to re-invent ourselves.
In 2015, Jorge stepped up and joined me on this journey. He also knew there was no cash, few investors willing to even look at Sierra Leone, and lots of challenges. Despite that, he closed his company in Argentina and moved with his wife to join me as Co-Founder. This was game-changing. Jorge and I managed to raise a bit of funds to do some trials and things started to change. We ran the first season of the Training Farm with almost 50 ha. Months later, Cristián joined the team on the Board of Directors, and we won our first large consulting contracts, providing us with some very much needed cash to continue operating.
Since then, we have grown to impact the lives of over 10,000 farmers, and currently run with a team of over 160 people from all continents and countries. We are far from over. We are here to spark economic growth in rural Africa and we dream of seeing the day when Africa feeds the world, the same way my country, Argentina, has done for over a century.