The rehabilitation and reintegration of artisans clearly brings into focus theory of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs defines the basic human needs as food, shelter, and clothing; reinforcing the theory that when these needs are met, other needs are easily attainable, eliminating the need for other destructive methods.
Liberia’s past two years of disarming and demobilization now harbor other challenges intertwined in reintegration, such as illiteracy and the basic post war environment of fragility based on a communities’ abilities to meet their own needs. Not to mention petty outbreaks of crime due to the non-availability bongda365 of donor funded supplies, money, training, etc. These complex behaviors of war affected persons and ex-combatants can threaten vocational training, micro-business and productivity.
However, Dr. John Meadley, the LCIP consultant, smartly sculpts the LCIP blueprint to meet the needs of training artisans and incoming apprentices, carpenters, blacksmiths, and masons. This unique micro-enterprise atmosphere closes the gap between the newly skilled, undercapitalized and unemployed ex-combatants and internally displaced persons. While the micro-enterprise environment challenges a new concept in order, commitment, and attitude, the value of this training is being realized through its immediate creation of business and employment. This will certainly be a tough paradigm shift for would be apprentices, who in many cases have lived the largest part of their lives as child soldiers or war affected people. But indicators of the artisan’s commitment to restoring their lives are demonstrated as they arrive daily before the program begins without the incentive of transportation. This could mean that RAP is a winner. Dr. Meadley and the artisans have developed a discipline system based on the system used in football, (soccer). Your first misdemeanor is a verbal warning, followed by yellow or red cards essentially three strikes and your out.
Before the war, artisans were traditionally trained as apprentices, but after two different episodes of war they were forced to abandon their shops. Upon their return to their businesses many artisans who had even tried unsuccessfully to bury their tools to protect them, found their premises had been looted and tools unsalvageable due to deterioration.
With help from LCIP, and the United States Aid to International Development, (USAID), rural artisans in the “Rebuilding Artisans Programme, (RAP),” are experiencing a revival of sustainability through this eight month USAID funded program to reconstruct and restart their traditional role of training young people through apprenticeship. This has created a significant increase in interest from artisans who realize they will work from a business aspect producing goods that can be sold on the market, instead of a classroom model that is built and taken apart.
This coming September, twenty five artisans will embark on the role of training 625 young people in Bong and Nimba Counties through the LCIP sponsored apprenticeships.
Artisans are proving to be the best technicians for both theory and practical training by realizing their stake in this collaborative process of building their own businesses to include employment.
Artisans will make great strides through the newly acquired management skills of micro-business that encompass a business package for the artisan and the apprentice, such as land rent, raw materials, (timber, varnish, metal sheets, cement, and free labour creating a solid a foundation for success.
The value of the RAP model is further strengthened by cross linkages with other LCIP projects like contracts for school furniture, spare machine parts for oil palm equipment, and other tools. The LCIP investment in the artisans businesses are more than tools, and fixed assets, there is a guaranteed change in how business will be conducted in the future of Liberia.
The production materials and free labour create a foundation for success and guaranteed profit. Formal standards will be introduced as an enhancement in the field of apprenticeship – with successful apprentices receiving a new certificate designed specifically for apprentices.
Liberia’s Other Gold: Oil Palm
“This tiny country’s future could rest on the economic importance of this small fruit bunch.”
Palm oil, known to be the most productive oil crop in the world, yields more than any other commercially grown oil crop. The Liberia Community Infrastructure Program (LCIP) is playing a significant role in reviving four of Liberia’s oil palm industry with the installation of eight palm oil processing equipment plants from Ghana, revitalization of plantations and the creation of temporary employment of 3:1 ex-combatants and war affected persons. About 2,630 ex-combatants and WAPS are participating in the implementation of these programmes. The LCIP program where totals over $1.6 million through the use of local implementing partners, Zleh Town, Liberia Agrisystems Incorporated,(LAS) in Zieh Town, Grand Gedeh County, Catalyst in Raymond Town Bong County , Multi-Agrisystems Promoters in Zleh Town, Organization for the Development of Agriculture and Farmer Related Association, (ODAFARA) in Foya, Lofa County.
Farmers once organized as cooperatives of rural Liberia remember the age old history of “cocoa and coffee co-ops in Liberia and the influence of President Tubman in 1971 to persuade co-ops to plant oil palm.
LCIP has estimated the demand for edible palm oil right at 22 million gallons per year, roughly determined through a quick survey if co-operative members and family usage. An accurate figure is to be determined.
If Liberia is able to attract private investors to develop the oil palm industry, laboratories could be set up to test the purity/quality of chemical balance of oil palm before it enters the enter international market.
LCIP’s community driven agricultural/economic development plan provides cooperatives a wealth of training from marketing, processing, the supply of raw materials, cost to farm producing palm fruit bunches, start-up cost process, managing the business, making decisions, understanding the real cost of things, recording and using records, deciding how to use the income and social issues. This reconstruction of how palm oil is produced from farm to market will encourage many to return and get involved in the process.
Currently oil palm is manually processed through a boiling process in a barrel, and then the oil is skimmed off of the top in a pit in the ground. The process is then strained from a container with H20 where the oil separated from the palm water. Kernels are discarded due to the labor intensive process of crushing that would be needed to further process them, therefore decreasing the actual amount of oil that could be produced using this method.
However, local producers find themselves at the mercy of the buyers, due to the absence of marketing and storage. The domestic demand for palm oil is determined according to a “labor valued at whatever is sold,” therefore oil palm consumption is seen from street market to supermarket by the snap, the gallon, retail or wholesale. Palm oil is used daily by every sector of the market with seasonal increases in cost during the rainy season. This tiny plum size fruit can produce up to 2000 individual fruits. Meanwhile, the output from processing from 100 kg of fruit bunches provide a saleable outputs of 17kg of palm oil yielding 19 litres or 5 US gallons.
For the environmentally concerned, Dr. Meadley addresses the alternate uses fruit waste products of fruit bunch, (no value), kernel shells, (burning for steam) and dirty water, (must not pollute rivers).
Sources say the world demand for palm oil is expected to increase by 5% annually from 1995 to 2015, with Guthrie of Malaysia and the Philippines as the major suppliers, even for Liberia.
The added fact driving the demand for palm oil worldwide is its unique composition and non-cholesterol quality and digestibility, quickly designating it as the “healthy choice” in more developed markets. The cooperatives which sell directly and individually to their common markets are unable to provide objective information on prices for different oils at different times of the year.
Economic importance of palm oil is comparable to any crop in Liberia, i.e., rubber, increasing the need to understand the nature of the market and its value.
The incentives of this unprecedented revival program have the potential to answer Liberia’s massive unemployment problem by continuing employment of temporary workers where the processing plants will be implemented.
LCIP is currently working with 16,950 acres of oil palm, on the Foya plantation in Lofa County (1,000 acres of potential 7,000) Kpatamwee plantation in Bong County, Zleh Town plantation in Grand Gedeh County (1,950 acres) Zieh Town plantation in Grand Gedeh County, (7,000 acres).
The Liberia Community Infrastructure Program (LCIP) is funded by the United Stated Aid to International Development (USAID) and The American People.