— The STAR-Project had earlier supported her by providing a market during the COVID-19 pandemic under the emergency relief support. The enterprise received a six-month contract from the STAR-Project to supply garri, dipper and fufu for the national food relief distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By ADETUNJI A. OREDIPE, World Bank
Agriculture is a key sector in the Liberian economy. It is a source of income for over 70% of the population. Agriculture accounts for 36% of the country’s GDP and constitutes an average of 14% of total export earnings.
In Liberia, women play a significant role in agriculture. They account for approximately 80% of the agricultural labor force and are responsible for 93% of food crop production. Despite that, women face challenges in accessing agricultural inputs and financing, among others.
Recent interventions under the World Bank-supported Smallholder Agriculture Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P) and the Rural Economic Transformation Project (RETRAP) are beginning to yield positive results in improving Liberian women’s participation in the agriculture value chain. These two projects supported farmers and agriculture entrepreneurs to boost their productivity and businesses.
One example is the Destiny Women Cassava Processing Center owned by Comfort Jallah, which was supported by the RETRAP project. In 2022, Jallah was struggling with raising funds to purchase cassava from farmers. Her business had little capital, limited warehouse space, and lacked proper transportation.
In January 2023, the Rural Economic Transformation Project provided the center with a truck that reduced post-harvest losses, a solar energy power generation system to meet its electricity needs, also funds in the form of a grant to purchase more raw materials.
This support has helped to increase their processing capacity from 100 25kg bags to 600. This center was able to supply the entire 600 25kg bags of processed cassava for the school feeding program through the World Food Program in Liberia.
The STAR-Project had earlier supported her by providing a market during the COVID-19 pandemic under the emergency relief support. The enterprise received a six-month contract from the STAR-Project to supply garri, dipper and fufu for the national food relief distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic.
World Bank-funded projects have helped the center provide more jobs in rural Montserrado – now employing eleven women and seven men. The center also demonstrated that with the right diagnosis and the appropriate support, women-led enterprises can deliver.
Another story also involves a female entrepreneur, Madam Miriam Mako, CEO of Mako’s Fruit Business Enterprise. She is engaged in the sale of fresh fruit juices, fruit baskets, smoothies, and other natural fruit delicacies.
Miriam started her business shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic and was struggling to survive in a male-dominated field where she used to travel to Nimba and the Guinean border to purchase the fruits. She had no access to finance compared to her male peers. During the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, Miriam learned about the business support grants offered by the STAR-Project. The grant that she received helped her to purchase needed blenders for her business and sufficient raw materials to keep up with the rising demand from her growing customers.
Miriam started the enterprise in one location, and she now has four, employing six women and two male youths. She purchases directly from fruit farmers, to whom she also provides production advice through an agronomist she hired to train them. To date, she has sold over 30,000 cups of smoothies, juices, and fruit bowls to customers.
Both Miriam and Comfort Jallah have become role models for younger women venturing into the agricultural business. Their experiences show that World Bank interventions that address the root causes of gender gaps in business leadership offer strong potential for progress. The lessons from these two experiences include solutions to women-led agri-business development should identify women with the right type of business plans that can be delivered through existing public programs. It’s also important to ensure that business plans address specific market failures and identify policy areas where the growth of such enterprises could be further supported by improving the enabling environment.