AGRO ENTERPRISE DEVELOPMENT
Food insecurity remains a serious problem in many parts of Liberia. Food insecurity hampers all development efforts by negatively affecting both physical and mental abilities of people, and have potentially negative effect across generations: Food insecurity or worse; malnutrition of mothers and children affects children’s growth and development and increases the families’ vulnerability to a range of health conditions including infectious diseases and anaemia. It is therefore crucial that food insecurities are addressed at different levels from productivity to better access to markets and building of personal safety nets (savings).
EDUCARE HAS A FOURFOLD APPROACH TO FOOD SECURITY; WE HELP THE COMMUNITIES IN:
- Securing livelihoods through increased productivity, better post-harvest management for profitability
- Increasing food security and nutrition through diversified crop production
Accessing markets and financial instruments for farmers
- Increasing the farmers’ knowledge and response to climate change
Our experience and evidence from different parts of the world show that enabling access to financial services such as savings mechanisms, insurances and bank accounts is a powerful way to reduce poverty and vulnerability to economic shocks and to increase economic resilience in the society.
- Improving women’s access to financial services increases equality and enables women to make more sustainable choices for their families: to cover cost of education for their children and buy more durable goods. It also strengthens women’s bargaining power and thereby improving their participation in decision-making in the household.
However, women and girls continue to be deprived in both access to financial services and in remuneration for work done, which is why EDUCARE focuses on equality in financial inclusion, controlling earnings and equal pay in its programs.
Under this strategic priority, we will continue to strengthen mechanisms to support sustaining of livelihoods and thereby food security particularly in rural areas in Liberia by focusing on two specific areas: supporting food crops production of small holder farmers by building both value and supply chains thereby supporting access to markets.
INCREASING FOOD SECURITY BY SUPPORTING INCREASED PRODUCTION, IMPROVED VALUE AND SUPPLY CHAINS MANAGEMENT AND SUPPORTING SMALLHOLDER BUSINESSES
Increasing food security sustainably demands developing livelihoods through both social and material capabilities and assets transfer: Social capabilities and assets refer to community members’ status in his/her community, social networks including trust and social safety nets to be able to function and earn a living in the community. With material capabilities we mean physical (machinery/equipment, livestock, roads) natural (land, water resources, forest) and financial assets of an individual or a household. Taking an integrated approach with other thematic areas, our programs have focused on both aspects with the objectives of empowering communities, increasing cash crops by providing technical support and know how, and by providing necessary equipment and infrastructure, for example irrigation systems.
Liberia is one of the 20 countries within Africa where USADF programs supports local African staff and partners to provide oversight and technical expertise to grow and expand community enterprises to ensure security, stability, and prosperity in particularly conflict and post-conflict areas in Africa.
With support from the USADF EDUCARE provides technical assistance to community enterprises that receives direct investments in seed capital, agricultural equipment, storage including warehouses and processing facilities, post-harvest management support as well as technical skills support to early-stage agriculture enterprises in poor and vulnerable communities. Operational assistance grants allow EDUCARE to work towards empowering groups to achieve greater food security and income stability. Enterprise expansion grants help community enterprises to expand production, achieve greater market access and capture follow-on funding and linkages to new markets.
DEVELOPING OF NUTRITION THROUGH DIVERSIFIED CROP PRODUCTION
Nutrition starts with what we eat, the production of the food and agricultural sector. We can improve our diets and our health by working on the way we produce, collect, store, transport and distribute food. Without agriculture there is little food or nutrition, however, availability of food from agriculture does not yet ensure adequate quality nutrition. We must therefore reinforce relationship between the two fields of agriculture and nutrition.
Bridging the gap can be achieved with a wholesome approach by 1) increasing food production and / or diversification of food produced, which may have an impact on both the quantity of food available for household consumption and the price of diverse foods; 2) agricultural income for expenditure on food and non-food items; and 3) women’s empowerment, which affects income, caring capacity and practices, and female energy consumption.
SUPPORTING FARMERS’ ACCESS TO MARKETS AND FINANCIAL INSTRUMENTS
EDUCARE has a strong experience in supporting local communities and individuals in developing small businesses, making business plans, developing business organizations and supporting them to access markets and financial services. We believe that pooling resources and improving access to markets enable further investment in both assets and human capital and thereby building resilience of households in the long-term. Our projects have, amongst others, targeted to establishing and strengthening of Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) platforms, which have reached over 10,000 women farmers in six counties: Lofa, Nimba, Bong, Grand Bassa, Margibi and rural Montserrado, providing the beneficiaries vital financial management skills and a structure to pool resources and increase savings for further investments.
In the coming years we will continue establishing VSLAs in additional districts and counties. We will also help community groups to set up cooperatives and other forms of agro- based enterprises and provide them both basic financial literacy skills training and deeper knowledge and skills to run their micro-enterprises. In addition, while we continue to focus on enhancing local production and local supply and value chains, we will explore opportunities to develop markets for exports. Exporting local products is however subject to positive macro-economic situation, investment and business climate for which EDUCARE’s influence is limited. Opportunities will therefore be seized as they come.
AGRICULTURE AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Changes in agricultural cycles are already experienced in Liberia. According to our experience and feedback from the farmers, seasonal changes have become more volatile and harder to predict. Environmental shocks make rural communities even more vulnerable and increase both food and income insecurity. In the coming years, we must closely monitor the situation to understand the nature and direction of the environmental changes and build local resilience towards external shocks. We must also work in close collaboration with environmental protection organizations in order to find constructive, innovative and sustainable ways to boost agricultural productivity and reduce crop fragility on the one hand and halt negative impact of agriculture on biodiversity de-forestation on the other.