The Registrar General of the Cooperative Development Agency (CDA), Madam Regina Sokan-Teah Williams has been briefing the media on the CDA’S activities and impacts on smallholder farmers and non-farm-based organizations capacity development and economic growth in Liberia for the period of time covering 2020-2021, noting the transformation of Artisanal Miners into Legal Cooperative Status in collaboration with Ministry of Mines & Energy in Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu, Grand Gedeh and Sinoe Counties while cataloging the Achievements and Contributions of the CDA to Government Revenue Basket.
Addressing the regular Thursday Press briefing of the Ministry of Information Culture and Tourism yesterday, June 17, Madam Sokan Teah Williams commenced her briefing when she traced the CDA’s statutory mandates which empowers the Cooperative Development Agency (CDA) legally, technically, educationally to assume the role of the overall administrative regulatory arm of the Government of Liberia (GOL) responsible for all cooperative activities.
The CDA’s registrar general said specifically, the agency is to identify, mobilize institutionally organize, register and regulate grassroots farm and non-farm based individuals into viable cost-effective socioeconomic cooperative entities.
CDA, she said, provides technical expertise such as training, audit and disputes settlement amongst cooperative societies and their members. Creates awareness on the importance and benefits of cooperative activities in the 15-Counties of Liberia, Re-activation of Dormant Agro-related and Credit Union Cooperative Societies, amongst others.
Speaking about achievements made in the area of awareness on the importance and benefits of cooperative activities within the 15 counties, Madam Sokan-Teah Williams enumerated that county local authorities including Superintendents, District Commissioners, Clan & Town Chiefs, smallholder farmers and non-farmers based individuals and groups are informed about the benefits of forming a cooperative society.
She also said local county authorities are now willing to provide farm land to cooperative groups aiming at increasing food production and security with emphasis on Liberia’s staple food “RICE” thus with the motto: Grow what we eat and eat what we grow.
She also spoke about the enhancing livelihoods and economic growth among smallholders’ farmers.
The CDA Boss also elaborated on the re-activation of Dormant Agro-related and Credit Union Cooperative Societies, saying that during the period under review, 25 dormant agro-related Credit Union Cooperative Societies activities were reactivated in eight of the 15-counties of Liberia with a combined membership of over 10,000 shareholders.
She explained, for examples, that war Affected Women Farmers’ Cooperative Society located in Malike, Suakoko in Bong County is now engaged in value chain and packaging of food crops for market, thus providing jobs to community members in Garee packages for school feeding and mature children.
She continues that Glehyee Kwadoe Multipurpose Cooperative Society located in Bonadin, Nimba County, is engaged in similar activities thus enhancing school feeding program through the WFP to schools in the district and county.
She furthered that Darbodake Farmers’ Cooperative Society in Konia, Lofa County, is engaged in the production and packaging of Peanut butter for the local market, while Toukpe Farmers ‘Cooperative Society located in Philadelphia, Harper District, Maryland County also engaged in lowland rice production with the active participation of local inhabitants.
The CDA’s Registrar General who recounted massive achievement of the national cooperative agency also named Credit Union Cooperatives re-activated to include Harbel Workers, Air Port, In God We Trust, Refineries, Port Authority, American Embassy, Monrovia Breweries, and National Teachers Employees Credit Union Cooperatives among others.
Commenting on the Transformation of Artisanal Miners into Legal Cooperative Status in collaboration with Ministry of Mines & Energy in Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu, Grand Gedeh and Sinoe Counties, Madam Sokan-Teah Williams said there are 15- Artisanal Mining Groups in the mentioned counties that are transformed into mining & agricultural cooperative societies with total membership of 450 with support from the World Bank under the Liberia Forest Sector Program.
On achievements and Contributions to Government Revenue Basket, she explained that Payment for Annual Licenses in the amount of USD150 per Artisanal Miner thus totaling USD67,500.00 to Government Revenue.
She said contributions to community development of two mining cooperatives from both Grand Kru and Sinoe Counties include purchased of benches for the only Public School and the construction of a City/Town Hall by Upper Jeadea Mining & Agricultural Cooperative Society located in Deanpo City, Jeadea District, in Sinoe County, adding that “Construction of a Junior High School and building a Town Hall through the local authorities in Parluken City, Porkpoh District, Grand Kru County are also part of the achievements.
Concerning currently implementation of MOUs with one of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Project Management Unit/PMU for capacity strengthening of 8-Cocoa Tree crops farmers’ cooperatives in Nimba County, the CDA boss said CDA/Tree Crops Extension Project/TCEP with objective to improve incomes and climate change resilience of smallholder cocoa producers, particularly women-headed households, youth and farmers based organizations/FBOs in 8-districts of Nimba County over a period 6-years.
She explained that the project is expected to target 11,000 beneficiaries including 8,000 smallholder cocoa producers, 2400 farmers to benefit from access to roads, input supply and market linkages and 600 farmers with opportunity to have jobs along the value chain
Counting achievements in that aspect of the CDA’s operation, the Registrar General noted that organizational development, governance and financial management capacities strengthened with emphasis on productive cocoa marketing with trader partner which she said provided jobs for community dwellers and increased in payment of taxes to government through shipment of cocoa beans to international markets.
The CDA, she explained, signed MoU with GROW-Liberia, a development partner for the development and harmonization of Standard Training Manuel to serve as guiding protocols for Liberia Cocoa Sector involving cooperative societies with three-major objectives which include the development of harmonize standard training materials and guiding protocols for Liberian cocoa in that embraces good agriculture practices, farm management, pest and disease control, post-harvest procedures (proper fermentation and drying techniques), integrated warehouse systems and quality control.
The MoU also include traceability and transparency, Madam Sokan-Teah Williams named Database of Farmers, Record keeping System and Management of Records and the structure the CDA as a repository, maintainer, and disseminator of key information in the cocoa sector including training materials in GAP, business management, organizational development, and traceability and transparency, directories of buyers and supplies in the Liberian cocoa value chain, directories of GAP and technical trainers in Liberia, and directories for sourcing materials and equipment crucial for the cocoa sector (e.g. Solar dryer plastic).
She said GAP training with all CDA technical field staff have been provided, while training of CDA Master Trainers is expected to roll out TOT training on GAP in cocoa farming to all CDA field staff.
It will yield positioning CDA as a key government agency with the capacity to prepare cooperatives for trade agreements, be one of the witlessness of the initial trade agreement, and also serve as a convener in case of dispute.
The MoU supports CDA for matchmaking sessions/trade agreements, to be able to offer guidance to cooperatives going into trade agreements, to be able to position themselves as conveners of trade agreements, to be able to follow up with cooperatives on delivering on trade agreements and to be able to settle dispute in time of defaults.
According to Madam Sokan Teah Williams, CDA’s Collaboration with the international Cooperative Alliance/ICA will result to ee-activation of Liberia Cooperative Movement membership with the ICA thus facilitating training opportunities and capacity supports for members and staffers of primary cooperatives and the CDA re-activation of the CDA Board of Directors and re-activation of both the two Apex Cooperative Bodies of the Cooperative Movement of Liberia, including the Liberia Credit Union National Association/LCUNA and the Liberia Federation of Cooperative Societies/LNFCS
On the constraints of the CDA, she mentioned low budgetary Support; lack of training opportunities of staff-Local, Regional & international; and lack of logistical supports – Vehicles, office equipment, etc.
Cooperative, she said, is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.