Whoever said that “if you give a hungry man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime,” might have had an idea why the Japanese Government decided to provide development assistance to Liberia, after the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the country.
The Japanese government realized that Liberia is still on its way to recovery from a 14-year civil war and the recent outbreak of Ebola that seriously affected the country’s path to reconstruction, leaving Liberians heavily reliant on transnational corporations (TNC) for the country’s economy.
However, the Japanese government has realized that unemployment is unavailable to unskilled and semi-skilled workers and that TNC’s contribution towards creating job opportunities as well as poverty reduction has been limited. “Conflict against TNC’s has been frequently observed in concession project-affected communities (PAC).”
Hence, the Japanese government, in its supplementary budget year (2016), with the implementing period (March 27-June, 2018) through UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization), in the amount of US$597,000, initiated a project that aims to promote social stabilization by improving human security of the vulnerable people and communities affected by crises in close coordination with TNCs.
The activities include carpentry and Entrepreneurship Development Program (EDP) training. The project sites are Monrovia and Margibi County; it is expected to enhance socioeconomic resilience and provide a means out of poverty.
Several hundred Liberian youth, who have worked along with the Liberia Carpentry Union (LCU), have been assisted to develop their skills in carpentry, while some of their leaders have gained training in Japan, under Japanese government’s assistance.
According to Mohammad Toure, president of the LCU, the Japanese government’s assistance has been tremendous. “We chose 60 young people from communities that are near concessionaire areas, such as Margibi, Grand Bassa, and Montserrado counties where 300 young men were trained, with 55 of them well established.”
He said with the improved work of their members to provide quality furniture, the Liberian government should implement a policy that gives Liberian carpenters the opportunity to supply 25 percent of furniture bought for ministries and agencies of government.
“We want a showroom where we can display our products so that Liberians can see what we are capable of doing,” Toure said. He commended the Government of Japan for carving a pathway for Liberians who are prepared to learn carpentry and get themselves out of poverty.
Toure told the Daily Observer that his Union is dialoguing with authorities of the Ministry of Commerce to work out an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the promise that through the Japanese assistance, Liberian carpenters will provide any quality furniture imaginable for the local market.
He said at present, at least 400 Liberians, including females, have gone through a system of education, using the Booker Washington Institute (BWI). While regretting that there are challenges, Toure believes that once the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) can show the political will to empower them with their demands, LCU members will have a sustainable route out of poverty.
Mohamed S. Turay, vice president of the LCU, told journalists that he was opportune to travel to Japan with assistance from the Japanese government. “What I learned in Japan has motivated me a lot and I am imparting the knowledge to young people who are passionate about learning carpentry,” he said. The carpentry project is led by UNIDO, with Eduardo Moreira as the project’s technical advisor.
“We want to appeal to the Japanese government to resume its assistance so that we can continue to develop our capacity as a way of getting many young Liberians out of grinding poverty,” Turay said.
Japan provides approximately a US$3M grant assistance for grassroots human security projects in Liberia (2012-2018).