Protecting the forest through community empowerment
Conserving nature requires the provision of functional programs for forest-edge communities. The fact is, communities closer to the forest, specially protected areas, most times depend on the forest for livelihood. So, when conservation organizations extend activities that are beneficial to the communities, it makes it much easier for the conservation of the forest and environment.
In Northern Liberia, precisely, Lofa County, the Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL), with support from Rainforest Trust (RFT) is currently working enormously for the gazettement and establishment of the Foya Proposed Protected Area in a protected area. As part of activities geared to improve the lives of the forest-edge community dwellers, SCNL’s microloan program is providing Millions of Liberian Dollars to women, (farmers and small business holders) for the improvement of their businesses.
From October 25, 26, and 29, 2022, respectively, 90 women, comprising farmers, and small business owners from Yallahum, Yanohum, Kailahum, Pasulahum, Lukasu, Pasulahum, Dukor Gbongo, and Vahum received LD$20,000.00 each as loan to improve their local businesses. During the disbursement in each town, town chiefs, youth and elders were present to serve as witnesses. The women were placed into five groups, each group came up with a name, a chairlady, rules to govern the group, the amount to be paid for appearing late for a meeting, and a fine if found misbehaving.
SCNL Loan Officer, Yuconjay Noyu. Barchue is passionate, hardworking, and determined to see women succeed. She provided training on how the loan will be paid by the women and taught them how to manage their businesses for more profits. The loan officer, with a charismatic style of grabbing the attention of the women, encouraged them not to get overly excited but to work harder in order to repay the loan, while at the same time improving their businesses. “SCNL through Rainforest Trust (RFT) is pleased to be providing the loan, to you, the (women). The money you have received is not free, you are to work hard to repay the loan even though; it will not be taken away from the community other people also need to benefit as you pay back. Your hard work will encourage SCNL to do more and as you know… use the money wisely, and handle it with care. Women are the backbones of homes, and women are trusted people, and I am hopeful you will work hard for the growth of your businesses”.
Musu Kamara, Yallahum, Satta Kamara, Yanohum, Mamai Konneh, Kailahum, and Ma Mary Kamara, Pasulahum are all businesswomen. They were among the 90 beneficiaries and appreciated SCNL and the Rainforest Trust for the loan. Satta Kamara has three children, and the father of the children passed away years ago. She said things have been different with the family since the children’s father died. Due to hardship, coupled with the passing of her partner, Kamara dropped out of school to take care of her children. She said, “I stopped in 8th grade, I don’t have anyone to take care of me, and my responsibility; however, I am selling dry goods, and with the loan received from SCNL, I will improve my business, and work hard so SCNL can keep helping me”.
For Mamai Konneh, a mother of three, purchasing more goods is the best option for growth. “SCNL is doing more than well for me. I am going to buy more goods, sell them, then pay the loan back. Money business is hard, to see an organization like SCNL helping us with loans is a great help. I want all the women to work together, forget about confusion so we can better our businesses and families”.
Like the rest of the women in Vahum, Jartu Mustapha danced and shouted joyfully when she saw her country’s currency, the Liberian Dollars for the first time in years. Due to the deplorable road condition, residents of Vahum go to neighboring Sierra Leone to transact using the Leones. She said, “I am very happy to see Liberian Dollars in Vahum. This is my first time seeing our Liberian Money. We don’t see our money because of the bad roads. We go to Sierra Leone to buy and do business. This loan given to me by SCNL will be used to increase my market, and I will work hard to repay the loan. I tell SCNL thank you very much for your help. To the other women, let’s work together to pay the loan back”.