The Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia (EPA), Prof. Wilson K. Tarpeh has told a gathering in Gbarnga, Bong County that limited budgetary support to the Cooperative Development Agency (CDA) is preventing the Agency from achieving its statutory mandate.
Speaking at a program marking the observance of International Cooperative Day (ICD) in Gbarnga on Saturday, 16 July 2022, Prof. Tarpeh said despite the steady achievements at the CDA, there are more yet to be done in order for the CDA to meet its statutory mandate in post war Liberia.
The International Cooperative Day was held under the theme: “Coops Build a Better World” and Prof. Tarpeh presented on “Power of Cooperative in Post War Community Development in Liberia.”
He said the CDA faces lots of challenges including the lack of a modern office headquarters and noted that the Agency is renting a private home as its office along the SKD Boulevard in 72nd Community, Paynesville.
Prof. Tarpeh stressed the need for the recruitment of more trained people in the area of cooperatives and said not much has been done by the government to provide adequate financial or technical support or audit performance.
According to him, this has made several cooperatives vulnerable to individuals who have taken over and used leadership position for their own interests as reported by some Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) in the country.
The EPA Boss stressed the need to develop strong regulatory frameworks to ensure that people regain the trust that they once had in cooperatives in prewar Liberia when cooperatives recorded larger benefits and surplus for its members.
“This theory of change will require trained, trusted and reliable individuals who should see themselves accountable to their institutions. Moreover, the financial and technical support of national government and international partners are important to ensure resilient cooperatives amidst the increasing wave of infectious diseases especially the recent COVID pandemic disease that cause the loss of lives and disruption of economies,” Prof. Tarpeh said.
Speaking further, Prof. Tarpeh disclosed that the history of cooperative dated far back as 1844 when the business of Rochdale Pioneers in England was established with 28 men mainly weavers and skilled workers in other trades.
He explained that the establishment of the business give birth to the first cooperative society and noted that the principal reason why they established the cooperative was due to increasing pressure emanating from the market system.
“Interestingly the period of the 17th Century witnessed the emergence of mass production at the detriment of entrepreneurs who had been capable of producing high quality goods competing with big industries that were producing and selling poor made expensive goods. For example, the tea industry, producers added grass clippings to increase the tea production with no adherence to quality assurance and control.”
Speaking further, Prof. Tarpeh disclosed that in Liberia, the birth of cooperatives can be dated as far back as in the 60s, 70s with the coming into existence of the Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC).
“This was followed by the establishment of the Agriculture Credit Corporation and subsequently the Cooperative Development Agency (CDA) to regulate and support the development of cooperatives linked to several crops,” the EPA Boss said.
He explained that the mandate of CDA gives its broader portfolio that includes vegetable seeds.
In Liberia, cooperatives have been the major source of farmers’ empowerment in providing access to finance, seeds, tools, marketing, transport and storage. Cooperatives also represent farmers’ interests at the national level.
The Agricultural Cooperative Development Bank (ACDB), which was established to promote integrated rural development through balanced regional planning, according to Prof. Tarpeh performed satisfactorily prior to the civil war.
Prof. Tarpeh indicated that the bank provided finance in the form of short, medium and long-term loans to individuals, farmers’ cooperatives or farmers’ organizations (Gbandi Farmers’ Cooperative, Quadi Gboni Farmers’ Cooperative and many others to facilitate the establishment of agricultural enterprises and the development of rural industries in Lofa County and other parts of Liberia.
“Additionally, the Bank encouraged and promoted the development of cooperatives, farmers’ organizations, cottage industries as well as mobilized savings in rural areas; rendered technical advice and assistance to individuals, farmer’s cooperatives and farmers’ organizations, conducted research on agricultural credit, marketing or agricultural products and cooperative societies engaged in agriculture, provide training facilities for farmers and co-operatives and assist in the promotional work in organizing and establishing co-operative societies,” he said.