Liberia Community Development Foundation – for sustainable development

By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with George D. Varkpeh of theLiberia Community Development Foundation. We talked to him about his organization, the projects it implements, and asked him about women empowerment. 
Local communities have to become self-reliant without depending from food important, a key factor for development in all African countries.  
How was the Liberia Community Development Foundation Founded?
Many communities as well as sectors including education, health, vulnerable groups, food security, water and sanitation, transportation and gender equity in Liberia are badly damaged and/or affected, coupled with the destruction of infrastructure, thus creating unbearable living condition which have negative impacts on communities. It has become very difficult for many communities to find better ways of doing things, both for the present and future to meet diverse needs in existing and future communities, promoting personal wellbeing, social cohesion and inclusion and creating equal opportunities. Women still remain highly vulnerable and exposed to violence. Illiteracy rate is high among women and rural women depend on subsistence agriculture and play a central role in food production.
Realizing this and to intervene suitably to add up to real change, the Liberia Community Development (LCDF) was organized to work along with local communities for sustainable development that will bring many benefits in economic growth and activities. Local communities need to be empowered for sustainability. Money that is now going toward food imports should be rechanneled for job training, human services, purchase of farm implements so as to enable local communities become self-reliant.
What are the issues that you address?
For sustainable development to provide an approach for communities to become agents of their own, economic growth and activities, LCDF addresses the below issues:
–          Gender Equity
–          Abject poverty
–          Education
–          Health
–          Food security
–          Water and sanitation
–          Infrastructure
–          Household enterprises
–          Farming equipment
What are, according to your experience the key elements that lead to community empowerment?
–          Lack of job training
–          Lack of economic activities
–          Infrastructure
–          Poor farm to market road
–          Water and sanitation
–          Communities that lack the basic elements to live
–          Advocacy regarding community rights
–          Household enterprises
–          Environment and resource rights
–          Low income
–          Food security
–          Institutional capacities
–          Community & economic development
–          Empowerment of women to hold elected officials accountable for the management of revenues accrued from natural resources
–          Awareness to report on assessment in forums and on community radio stations
Do you carry out any specific project in order to promote women’s rights and empowerment?
Yes, we have specific projects we carry out to promote women’s rights and employment. In this field, I can give you two examples:
Project A: “Integrated agriculture for women’s Empowerment”
–          To eradicate extreme hunger and poverty through increased agricultural production and productivity
–          To promote gender equity
–          To empower women through skills  development  in entrepreneurship
–          Women participation, control over assets, and increased decision-making power
Project B: Strengthening women and advocacy in the implementation of corporate social responsibility provisions in concession agreements
–          To raise awareness and advocacy regarding women rights related to the forestry sector
–          Resource rights
–          Increase women engagement in the forestry sector by strengthening the capacity of women forestry development committees to engage with the government and logging companies, monitor compliance with forest laws and ensure benefit sharing agreements are upheld
–          Program development, ethics and accountability
How do you identify and select the communities where you intervene?
For sustainable development to confront problems faced by communities, Liberia Community Development Foundation conduct need assessments through visitations, holding of meetings with local authorities and carrying out analysis on,
–          Economic indicators
–          Geographic profile
–          Law, regulations, and policies
–          Gender issues
–          Cultural norms
–          Information collected on target beneficiaries
–          Arrange for and conduct market research in selected target communities
–          Working with other organizations to learn more about the communities
–          Individual interviews