Successful farmers in Liberia

Successful farmers in Liberia

After Liberia’s civil war in 2003, women had difficulties rebuilding their lives as most of their husbands had died in the war. Liberia’s first “Women for Development” group was formed in 2006 by 17 people.

How they began

They started out using their backyards to grow assorted vegetables such as potato greens, bitter balls and hot pepper to sell.

They formed a group and chose the name “Women for Development”. After electing leaders, they decided on the terms, covering training and sharing the work. Working as a group gives some necessary flexibility as these women have little spare time.

Concern started working with them in 2006. The first step was listening to their needs.

Distributions

When the group started they received wheelbarrows, watering cans and other tools from Concern. They received some pineapple and cassava sticks to plant. We also gave them US $217 which they used to buy 20kg of peanuts and 10kg of beans.
 
The group harvested 40 bags of peanuts and four bags of beans in 2007. They sold 20 bags of peanuts and 180kg of beans, with each member receiving a small amount of the proceeds. The balance was put into a kerosene business and a used clothes business. In 2008, some of the proceeds went on school tuition for members’ children and hospital bills of sick family members.

Challenges

A number of people dropped out in the first year, when they didn’t see immediate benefits. However, by the second year when people started to see progress, membership increased. Malay is keen to stress their focus is on the long term. “We stand for development,” she says.

Increased number of groups

By late 2009, there were 26 Women for Development groups in Liberia. The number of members in a group varies from 10 to 25 people.

Grain banks

Two additional women’s groups operate grain banks. They purchase rice and palm oil when prices are low and store it until the lean season (June to August in Liberia). They then sell it at the local market, making a profit of around 10-15%.

Lessons learned

The success of these groups demonstrates that with a little help marginalised women can make real improvements to their livelihoods.