Yesterday marked the seventh annual International Day of Rural Women – a United Nations day of observation to recognize “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.” The VVLead team honors the leaders in our Fellowship Program who make vital contributions to ensure women’s equal access to resources and recognition within the sector.
The genesis of the challenges and obstacles facing rural women farmers in Liberia stems from the two decades of conflict during the Liberian Civil War, which claimed around 250,000 lives and displaced one third of the population. As a result of this devastating internal conflict, Liberia suffers from a complete breakdown of community ties, cultural structures and the family unit.
Now, let us fast forward to present day Liberia, after 11 years of peace time. What are these rural women experiencing?
- There is no emphasis or support for community agriculture.
- There is no government support or access to finance.
- Accessing land for farming is difficult.
In order for rural women to participate fully in farming and food production, support to them must include access to land and finances, adequate training and extension support. At OCI Farms, through our pilot farming community organization, we have actively engaged communities and families interested in farming. With technical help and input from us and our own donors and supporters, the participants will take shared responsibility for the running, success and failures of this farming organization. As successful projects emerge, we hope that the government and society at large will see the benefits of farming and begin to actively support and engage in community farming once more.
By empowering women in food production and agriculture, we, at OCI Farms, will be contributing to returning Liberia to normalcy and ensuring regional stability. When food and sources of livelihood are threatened, the first victims are the women and children. Any year people neglect to farm, with the spate of increased unrest globally, we run the risk of higher mortality rates from disease and malnutrition.
We aim to continue empowering rural women to grow significantly in the agriculture and food producing sectors so that their livelihoods can be guaranteed.
With literacy and business skill sets learned from our training and support, they will become an asset to the nation and society at large by creating a core base of skilled rural women farmers who can train other women; a core base of farming communities nationwide that will be economically self-sufficient; and an example and a beacon of encouragement to other women globally that they too can succeed at farming and food production if they have the chance to try their hands at it.