KARNPLAY, Nimba – A group of 57 people at the Gbehlay-Geh Rural Women Multipurpose Cooperative Society received a US$100,000 loan to boost their rice and cassava production on March 1 in Karnplay.
The group, chaired by Annie Kruah, was formed in September 2005 with a focus on agriculture produce, including rice, cassava, and oil palm. In a special remark during a brief ceremony held prior to the loan distribution, Kruah cautioned her members to treat the loan repayment process with sincerity.
“Women, they have given us a challenge… and they are saying that if we cannot make it, other people will not make it,” Kruah said. “My women, I want [you] to leave proud on the Gbehlay-Geh name. The way the people look at us and respect us… they jumped over the other cooperatives and came to us. Please make us proud so that they can know that women [are] in the county.”
“This challenge is not even for us alone, but for the whole county,” Kruah added. “Let’s get on our feet; let’s put on trousers and work, please. This money is not for pleasure; it’s for working! Let us get in the swamp to work, so that this trial they give us, we can be able to make it.”
Speaking to the press, Kruah acknowledged the challenge the group now faces in managing the funds but maintained that she has what it takes to cope with it. She said the money will be used to purchase seed rice that will be milled and sold on the local market while a portion of the loan will go to farming activities.
The loan was made available through a USAID-funded project called the Liberia Agribusiness Development Activity. It is being implemented by Cultivating New Frontier in Agriculture. The US$19 million project is expected to last four years in Liberia, with a focus on establishing partnerships with agro-dealers, cooperatives, and aggregators, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture.
Thomas L. Gayeplu, the Nimba coordinator for the CNFA LADA project, said the loan is being disbursed in partnership with the Liberia Entrepreneurial Asset Development and Cellcom, a telecommunications company.
“This money you are about to receive is from USAID,” he said. “This money is from the United States Government – [it] is the tax payers’ money that they are investing into our country, so that in return, we will be [able] to put money into our pockets and increase production in agriculture.”
As a partner to the loan provided to Gbehlay-Geh Rural Women, LEAD contributed 50 percent of the loan, while CNFA LADA added the rest.
“The purpose of this loan is for Gbehlay-Geh Rural Women to buy paddy rice, and you process the paddy rice,” he added. “And when you process the clean rice, you place it on the market and generate income.”
Local leaders from the area expressed pride in having a group from their region selected for the grant.
Speaking in separate remarks, the district agriculture officer of Gbehlay-Geh Statutory District, Madison T. Gonkarnue thanked CNFA LADA and its partners for choosing to work with a group in his district.
“This district is the leading district in food production,” Gonkarnue said. “And we have 80 percent of the citizens as farmers.”
“I want to take this time to say that this is a great event for me,” said Evenlyn Gweh, mayor of Karnplay. Gweh called on the recipients to remain focused to make good use of the money.
For his part, Gbehlay-Geh’s statutory district superintendent D. Bartoa Bartuah, Sr. said he was very proud that people of his district are the first group to receive a loan from CNFA LADA.
“I am a proud man this afternoon. For my district – for people of my district – to be the first to receive this very important loan that is intended to empower the women,” he said.
Bartuah added, “When women are empowered, the nation benefits. We say thank ever so much to you, the partners, who are providing this fund.”
Emmanuel Y. Yeaney, another beneficiary of the loan, said it is a pleasure being a part of the cooperative. He said despite the name ‘Rural Women,’ males within the group are providing guidance to their female counterparts.
“We are there to provide help to our women,” Yeaney said. “We helped our women with farming, and also secretary work – to take records.”
Yeaney received US$1,003 from the loan.
The Gbehlay-Geh Rural Women Multipurpose Cooperative has a total of 1,177 members, including 761 females and 416 males. With a cultivated farmland of about 85 hectares, the group is the first cooperative to benefit from a loan from the CNFA LADA project. The loan beneficiaries each received anywhere from US$160 to US$20,000.
Featured photo by Arrington Ballah