Monday, April 15, 2024

Liberia: Local entrepreneurs tackle tradition to fight poverty, empower communities

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Farmers in rural Liberia have limited access to facilities to process their crops or markets to trade them. Pothole-ridden roads pose particular challenges, resulting in adoption of unorthodox practices.

Desperate to sell at least some of their produce, farmers in some areas have resorted to filling the most gaping holes with kilograms of palm fruits or rice – a strange phenomenon in a country that is food insecure. The fillings must continually be replaced, as traffic and weather wear them down. This sacrifice of portions of their harvest makes it more difficult to break through the shackles of traditional subsistence farming and create reliable sources of income to empower families and communities.

Enter J Palm Liberia, founded in 2013 by Mahmud Johnson, a young social entrepreneur. The company aims to boost thousands of Liberians out of poverty through responsible, sustainable methods of producing palm oil. It purchases palm kernels from smallholder farmers and processes them into palm kernel oil. That business model is a departure from ancient practice.

Typically, palm fruit is harvested from communally-owned trees, which largely grow wild. This distinguishes much of Liberia’s palm oil production from the multinational corporate practice of clearing large areas to cultivate palm trees and means Liberia avoids the widespread environmental destruction common in the global market.

Traditional practice harvests fruit from communally-owned palms trees and squeezes oil from the soft outer layers of the fruit, often by hand. The inner palm kernels are too hard for manual extraction of the oil. Read more…

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