Cooperatives Mobilize Local Resources in Liberia
This article originally appeared on Marketlinks.org.
In 2010, Sebehill Cocoa Farmers Association (SEKUFA), a purchasing cooperative, was in the business of buying coffee and cocoa from their members in Lofa County, Liberia. Sebehill Cooperative participates in USAID’s Cooperative Development Program (CDP), implemented in Liberia by ACDI/VOCA. Over the past two years, ACDI/VOCA’s CDP program staff have worked with the members of Sebehill Cooperative to increase their ability to apply good agricultural practices, manage their finances, plan for the future of their businesses, and manage their cooperative effectively. Before 2017, Cooperative members were accustomed to traveling long distances, sometimes as far as neighboring Sierra Leone, to buy food, construction materials, and other essential goods. The Cooperative members needed a place to buy these items that was cheaper and easier to get to.
Training provided through CDP spurred the cooperative members to realize that they had options for starting businesses they had not considered before. Sebehill decided to open a retail/agro-business store. Initially, the store carried two items: bundles of zinc to use as roofing material and bags of rice. Over time, their inventory expanded to include other types of foodstuffs, construction materials, and farm tools. Sebehill Cooperative buys and transports these goods, saving its members time and money by not having to travel as far to purchase them. Profits from the store are an extra source of income for the cooperative. Between August 2017 and April 2018, the store generated USD$15,000 in revenue. It may not sound like much, but between August 2017 to April 2018 the store’s revenue per cooperative member was USD$7.50. That is a significant figure considering 84 percent of Liberia’s population lives on less than US$1.25 a day. From July to November 2017, the number of cooperative members increased from 1,890 to 1,970, in part due to access to the cooperative store as well as access to the cooperative’s truck.