Women in Bensonville involved in petty trading and farming listed the lack of buyers for their produce and support to their farms as major impediments to their growth and empowerment.
In an interview with the Daily Observer over the weekend in Bentol and Crozierville, the women revealed that despite efforts they are not making much progress in their business and farming endeavors.
Madam Teta Togba, who sells roasted corn as well as wholesale pepper, said “We are serious about selling our produce; but unfortunately for us, we suffer from lack of buyers. We find it difficult to take the goods to Red Light and other places, because of the huge cost of transportation.”
According to Togba, commercial drivers charge a minimum of L$125 per person each way, plus a separate charge for her wares, including the bags of pepper.
“So, if you have a bag of pepper that is priced at L$900 on the market, and have to take the transportation from said money, you are left with nothing,” she noted.
“Many of us have children, so spending more than L$300 on transportation becomes a serious problem for us. We don’t have a market system that is open to many people in Monrovia and other places. You have people leaving in nearby villages with pepper, corn, greens, and cassava, even coal bags, without buyers for them.”
When asked about access to loans to expand their businesses, Madam Togba and Madam Mulbah said no banks have reached them with information on loans they are offering to small scale business people.
They are hoping for such loan opportunities to help expand their farming and other businesses.
Explaining the lack of buyers for their produce, Madam Togba, 34, with five dependents, blamed the phenomenon on the fall in the population of Bentol since the civil war.
Satta Morris, 47, also with five dependents, said marketers were finding it very difficult to get buyers from other parts of Monrovia.
“My children and I sell dry goods. We also farm because we have to pay school fees, take care of food and other domestic things. I can’t sit around because I have no one else to handle my problem but me. Taking care of these children without a husband for the past 10 years, we’ve just been struggling to make things happen; and thank God for life because my children are doing well,” Madam Morris said.
For her farming business, Madam Morris said she produces peppers, okra, potato, cassava, greens, with one major buyer, Community Care Center, a most talked about health institution in the area.
For Mary Kortu, 25, she said doing business in Bentol is risky because of unreliable customers, including big institutions that can purchase large quantities of their produce.
She said that food service businesses procure their produce at Red Light or other recognized markets instead of supporting local businesses.
“We only get people coming from other markets, particularly to buy. Producing raw commodities is risky but life has to go on and people need to eat every day. We carry these things to Red Light and we don’t get buyers easily and end up selling them cheap to other marketers because we have to come home and provide for the children,” she added.