“We have saved and loaned money among ourselves to enable us to invest more in our farms to improve our lives and increase food security,” said Mary Diayeah, manager of the Zoedoah Farmers Association in Nimba County.
The ability to access loans for people in Liberia is a difficult circumstance especially for farmers as there are limited or no financial institutions in rural parts of Liberia to provide the opportunity to borrow money.
To improve agricultural productivity, in 2013, members of the Zoedoah Farmers Association, which comprises 28 farmers, predominantly women, joined the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) program supported by USAID’s Food and Enterprise Development (USAID FED) program for Liberia.
VSLA is a loan program where rural people who lack access to banking institutions for credit pool their savings to generate the ability to loan money to one another.
The money is then loaned out to members on ten percent rate over a three month period. At the end of the cycle, usually 9-12 months, the savings from the interest is then redistributed to borrowers to reinvest in their farms.
For the first cycle from October 2013 to June 2014, the women raised the sum of LD$1,350,000 or USD $16,071.
The group distributed the money with interest to the members to further develop individual farms. The interest received, which was LD$250,000 or USD $2,976 from the loans, was used to hire laborers from February to March 2015 to prepare the group’s farm comprising 8.5 hectares of upland rice, 1 hectare cassava and a plot of vegetable garden. All of these projects are currently under cultivation.
Alice Tweh, the record keeper of the Zoedoah farmers said, “Five years ago, women farmers struggled to make farms, but USAID FED and the VSLA program have now improved our farms.”
Alice in 2014 bought tools and paid workers to develop her five hectare cassava farm with LD$18,000 or USD $215 which was part of her savings from the VSLA. She also used some of this amount to take care of some household problems and pay her children’s tuition.
USAID FED is currently partnering with a few financial institutions in Liberia to create financial assistance groups in six counties of which most of the beneficiaries are women. From 2013 until May 2015, USAID FED’s VSLAs have raised a total of US $508,792 from loans accumulating US$50,879 interest that was returned to benefit its members.
Over the coming year USAID FED will increase the VSLAs they work with from 373 to 723 to reach an expected total of 12,675 women with its program.
The USAID Food and Enterprise Development Program targets organized farmers and provide resources and knowledge to improve production and profitability.