Conserving the forest involves finding an alternative livelihood for forest community dwellers. The Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL) understands that with the provision of an alternative livelihood, forest preservation can be achieved. As part of its many projects helping to transform the lives of forest community dwellers, SCNL through the Darwin Loan Program is providing Microloan to hundreds of women in Gbarpolu County.
Under the established Darwin Microloan Program, with a cost of Euros 30,000.00, SCNL makes funds available to Micro Lender Intermediaries, who are community-based stakeholders, the Community Forest Management Body (CFMB), which loans to eligible borrowers particularly women in amounts up to a maximum of LD$25-50,000.00.
All credit decisions are made on the local level by the CFMB, with awareness and education from SCNL through the community mobilization officers. Public awareness and education about the small loan program, and the forest may help protect the communities. The involvement of local leaders and communities in managing and protecting the forest is necessary.
Months ago, SCNL in collaboration with the Darwin Loan Program conducted an assessment of the benefits, risks, and potential impact of the Small Loan Program within the community forest in Normon and Tonglay clans in Kongba District, Gbarpolu County.
In Gbarpolu County, there are 215 women benefitting from the Microloan Program. According to some beneficiaries in both clans, the program has brought lots of changes in their lives. “First it was difficult for my children to go to school but with this loan business my children are now going to school,” said a beneficiary from the Normon clan.
“It is helping me to make a big farm now, before the loan program, I didn’t have much money, so I wasn’t able to make a big farm. However, since I entered this loan business, I can make big farms, and plant bitter balls, pepper, etc.…I can use the profit from my market to pay people to brush my farm,” a beneficiary said.
SCNL recognizes the efforts and commitment required to manage a community forest and also recognizes the commitment of the [Normon and Tonglay Clans] to support SCNL’s roles in conservation.