Liberia, located on the west coast of Africa, has made significant progress in promoting gender equality in recent years. However, like many countries, it continues to face challenges in achieving full gender parity. Women in Liberia face challenges in accessing economic opportunities and resources. Limited access to credit, land ownership, and entrepreneurial support pose barriers to women’s economic empowerment.
Kpanyan Production Protection Inclusion Compact
To promote women’s economic participation and increase their access to finance and markets, the Kpanyan Production Protection Inclusion Compact came together as a community-based organization comprising various stakeholders, including local government officials (District Superintendent and Commissioners), Kpanyan Community Land Development and Management Committee (CLDMC), Community Forest Management Body, youth and women leaders, NGOs, and private sector entities in the region. The CLDMC is working with the PPI Compact to ensure that all stakeholder groups are actively participating in the efforts to manage the community’s land and natural resources in a sustainable manner.
Transforming Power Dynamics
Taking the gender perspective and social inclusion into account, the project has significantly transformed power dynamics within the community by establishing a balanced representation within the CLDMC. With an equal distribution of 50% women and 50% men, as well as equal inclusion of youth and elders, a major shift has occurred. This shift has provided opportunities for women and girls to actively participate and contribute to decision-making. They have assumed management roles in the community agro-processing hubs, empowering them further. Now, women and girls have a rightful place in decision-making regarding critical community resources, including land ownership and cultivation.
Agriculture is a significant sector in Liberia, particularly in rural areas. The establishment of labour sharing groups, locally known as Kuus, and the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) groups have improved food security and income, but have also enhanced social cohesion, inclusion, financial literacy, and economic empowerment, especially of women. In 2022, the establishment of community agro-processing hubs has not only empowered women but also enabled them to actively manage and derive benefits from these facilities. This transformative change has particularly provided an opportunity for women to participate equally in land governance, a realm where their voices were previously disregarded.
Climbing the ladder of development: From Grater to Motorized Cassava Machine
For decade, farmers (mainly women) in the locality of Tubmanville in Sinoe County have used the traditional method of adding value to their cassava by processing it into fufu or Gari (food made of cooked or fermented Cassava) using the crude method of using a grater. A grater is a piece of strong zinc (28 gauge) that is perforated on one side with a four inches nail and mounted on a piece of wood in an oval form. The farmer peels the cassava and rubs it on the grater which forms fine paste. The paste can be used to make several kinds of food (grated dumboy, fufu, gari, etc.). The transformation of the cassava into other products, adds value, shelf life and increases income.
Working with IDH over the years on forest management to include the adoption of sustainable practices such as: crop rotation, inter-cropping, ‘no slash and burns’, compost making and improved pest and disease control. Through the Liberia Forest Sector Project, IDH provided motorized cassava processing machines, pressers and other accessories that maximize efficiency, produce better quality, and increase the volume of production which generates a higher income.
With IDH project support, twenty-five cassava processing hubs have been established with a capacity of processing two tons of cassava per day. The presence of the cassava processing hub has exhausted 80% of available cassava in the community. Women farmers, determine to maximize the use of the cassava processing machine are now turning to high-yielding cassava varieties to double the size of their previous cassava production to generate a higher income.
Through the efforts of the Kpanyan Communities and the Production Protection Inclusion Compact, Liberia’s journey towards gender equality and social inclusion takes a significant stride forward. By promoting economic empowerment, transforming power dynamics, and challenging socio-cultural norms, the project envisions a more inclusive and equitable society for all.