Monrovia – Since the government of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf came to power, many small and medium businesses have benefited from micro financing loans to increase their business enterprises, with less attention paid to agriculture business groups.
Recently, IESC under a USAID program, Liberia Investing for Business Expansion (IBEX) formulated a way to help informal farming groups acquire loans from banks to invest. IESC/IBEX in collaboration with one of its partners Opportunities Industrialization Centers International (OICI), work as technical advisers to the banks and agriculture sectors to build capacity.
Mrs. Watchen H. Bruce, IESC’s Chief of Party explained that the group is instrumental in helping the banking sectors build their capacity on how to lend to people in the agriculture and renewable sectors.’We also work with people in the agro-business, including farmers, Agro-processors, people selling equipment to farmers. We help them to access finance,” Bruce said. “We do assessment if the need be, we provide technical existence to small and medium businesses to help them package their loans and process for applying for loans. So far we have submitted eight projects to the banks and out of the eight, we have one approved and closed.’
Bruce also said they are currently working with handicap groups in Bong and Nimba counties who are involved in cash crops, planting and producing to resell. ‘They have physical disabilities but they are not limited by their disabilities. As a matter of fact, the president of that group is in a wheel chair and he comes to my office which is on fourth floor.” According to Bruce, the bottom line is that the disable people want to help themselves and not be seen as limited because of their physical limitations.
Mr. Michael Wotorson, OICI Technical Advisor, said that for a very long time in Liberia, banks have not taken interest in investing in agriculture therefore their partners IESC /IBEX are helping farming groups to get loans from the banks. ‘We are getting ready to take our partners to three women’s groups in Grand Gedeh. Our idea is to get these group recognized legally and thereafter IESC can take them and get them properly packaged and directed to the banks,” Wotorson said. “If the banks can give these people loans, their transformation would be incredible, because you would have poor rural women benefiting from a huge loan to invest more.