A report on Gender in Liberia outlines that the majority of farmers are women who represent more than 50 percent of the country’s farming population and also serve as processors and entrepreneurs. They are reportedly producing more than 60 percent of Liberia’s agricultural output.
Despite the important role women play in agriculture, they are sometimes not recognized as major players in the promotion of food security in Liberia.
Women farmers are faced with more challenges than their male counterparts, ranging from the difficulty to acquire farmland, limited skills in improved farming technologies and limited access to credit.
Moreover, most women farmers in the country are still farming at subsistence level with no business knowledge to enable them commercialize their produce.
This year’s small business conference organized by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry highlighted the promotion of Liberian female entrepreneurs for economic empowerment.
Several women in small businesses participated in the conference to showcase their achievements over the years and to highlight challenges that are facing their businesses in order for government to formulate and regulate needed policies for their advancement and to enhance a better business environment for the growth of the economy.
Some of the challenges the women outlined during the panel discussion at the conference include the constant abuse of market women engaged in cross border trade, limited access to loans, and limited market opportunities.
The women are recommending to the government the establishment of a special banking institution that will cater only to business women.
Patricia Keith is one of the female entrepreneurs who participated in this year’s small business conference. She is the executive director of the Paton Farming Enterprise that specializes in food processing with support from the Liberia Agri-business Development Activity (LADA), a Feed the Future global food security initiative of the U.S government for Liberia.
During the conference, Patricia disclosed that she started her career in agriculture as a farmer, but has had a challenging experience from the beginning.
“I was once a farmer growing different varieties of vegetables, but had no buyers for my produce. I later decided to get into food processing to add value to my produce to improve my income. Currently, my processing center produces 25 “made in Liberia” products. This is helping me to realize better earnings than when I was a farmer.”
Patricia observes that the lack of improved processing and packaging opportunities were major constraints facing women food processors.
“Women must be empowered in farming and processing activities to enable them to become more productive to support their families,” she said.
Meanwhile, the LADA project is expected to develop the capacities of Liberian female entrepreneurs for the export market to increase incomes.
For her part, Julie James, a member of the Center for Women Agriculture Program in Nimba County, said her organization is engaged in cocoa production for livelihood income.
She stressed the need for the government and partners to develop the skills of women in the cocoa sector to produce quality products for the markets.