Micro-loans Boost Women's Empowerment in Rural Liberia

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For the women of the Mandel-Mel Women's Union in Gbarma, Gbarpolu County in the northern part of Liberia, agriculture production is gradually taking on a new face as micro-finance schemes boost farming projects generating thousands of dollars in revenue.

Established in April this year, the 25 member local women's Union was the first organization to benefit from micro-loans given by the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). Since then, the women have cultivated 24 acres of land for pineapples, cassava and eddoes, with hopes of introducing other crops as production expands.

The project which began with an initial micro-loan of $7,200, jointly funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) through the VSLA, has so far accumulated $162,955.00 in revolving funds.

Delighted at the success of the Union's pineapple project, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, accompanied by United States Ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas-Greenfield visited the farm site to encourage the women and to thank them for their hard work. She also commended UNDP and UNCDF for their support to women's empowerment and poverty reduction in Liberia.

The micro-finance scheme managed by the Village Savings and Loan Association is just one of the many ongoing small loan initiatives in various parts of the country. Although not every case turns out as successful a story as the Mandel-Mel women's pineapple project, so far, micro-loans have helped secure sustainable access to financial services and improve the livelihoods of many low-income people of Liberia.