Employment for residents in rural communities, especially for young people is still considered as one of many challenges nationwide in the agriculture sector, but the Whoehen Group Agencies Empowerment for Sustainable Development Multipurpose Cooperative (WHOGASEDA) in Needonwen Community, Margibi County, is fighting all odds to keep jobless and vulnerable residents empowered through crop production and animal rearing.
The idea to empower jobless residents came to Ezekiel Ballah, a visionary and CEO of WHOGASEDA, just a week before the “Cash for Work Project (CFWP)” that was implemented by BRAC-Liberia expired this year.
“We felt that it was not going to be good where BRAC will give about hundreds of dollars, and afterward, we still remain jobless and vulnerable. That was how a sustainable plan to keep ourselves employed was conceived,” Ballah told the Daily Observer.
The CFWP was designed to help the poor residents increase their net earnings through community-level work and the European Union (EU) funded the program, while BRAC-Liberia implemented it.
Through community mobilization over the years, WHOGASEDA membership has grown from 14 to 45, a figure that is already resulting in good yield for the cooperative, especially in poultry and vegetable production.
The cooperative currently enjoys partnership with member farmers, and other businesses, including the Falama Organic Mini Mart and the Farmington Hotel in Margibi County.
WHOGASEDA buys and resells what they called “organic eggs” from member farmers that they supply with chicks. The business model has created a stable market for poultry farmers, who are members of the cooperative.
“Marketing of farm products has been a problem. People produce their farm products, but they do not have the necessary market,” said Ballah.
To solve the problem, Ballah said some members of the cooperative are buying eggs from farmers, and reselling them to their clients in Monrovia, “because this is a new market innovation for the farmer since they now have a place to take their eggs and earn money.”
Also, an agreement is underway between the Farmington Hotel management, and WHOGASEDA for purchasing of vegetables that the cooperative grows.
In spite of WHOGASEDA impact on residents in Margibi County, the young cooperative struggles to purchase necessary supplies that will keep it operational in the coming years.
Ballah said that WHOGASEDA faces numerous challenges in the procurement of feeds and medicines for their chicks and layers.
“One of the issues is the procurement of antibiotics that is available, but the price and serving time are really short. One antibiotic is sold for US$25, and it only serves us for two weeks,” said Ballah.
“Another thing is getting primary feedings for our chicks. One 50kg bag is sold at US$40, and this is really expensive for us, because if we are breeding from day-old chicks to mature birds, we will be operating at a loss.”
However, WHOGASEDA says that they are developing local-made feedings as a substitute for the primary feeds.
“What we are doing now is to come up with local content where we are going to grow maize since it makes up most of the layers’ feeds. With such intervention, we can cut down cost on imported feeds,” said Ballah.