Sheikh A. Turay Fellow 2012
Living in: Monrovia — Liberia
Venture: Liberation Chocolate
Getting Former Child Soldiers Out Of Poverty Through Cocoa Production
Operating in: Sub-Saharan Africa
Impact Area: Agriculture, Community Development, Enterprise Development,...
"Getting Former Child Soldiers Out Of Poverty Through Cocoa Production"
Describe yourself briefly.
I'm a social entrepreneur striving to help my fellow men get out of poverty. In my home, 76% of the Liberian population live below $1/day and there are 60,000 former child soldiers left from the war that sent me to Ivory Coast for 14 years as a refugee. I strive to help these people live dignified lives.
Before Desert Trading Company now (Liberation Chocolate), I was a 1st - 6th grade teacher in a refugee camp in Ivory Coast. Since starting Liberation Chocolate, we've revived abandoned farms and employed 50 former child soldiers.
Together,We can produce Cocoa beans from the bottom of the value chain to finished products(Chocolate) in the US Markets.
Describe your Unreasonable Venture in 100 words or less.
After 14 years as a refugee in the Ivory Coast, I returned to Liberia and saw overgrown farms as far as the eyes could see. I also saw former child soldiers turning in their guns in order to receive $US150. But these children had no means once the $150 ran out.
What would they do next? They may steal. They may cause havoc. But with no plan, they were not making Liberia safer. So, I decided to tackle these two problems by creating job opportunities for former child soldiers through the revitalizing of cocoa farms.
With one bag of rice in 2004, I worked with a singe community to clean the first farm and make it farmable. From here, we generated the first capital of our venture. Today we are profitable, employing 50 former child soldiers and looking to expand.
In two years, we strive to have a chocolate production plant and employ 100 former child soldiers and revive the spirit of cocoa production.
Describe your relevant experience (especially entrepreneurial).
My relevant enterpreneurial experience could be described as challenging and successful because I started this venture with out any business Capital. I visualized the difficulty experienced by the farmers and decided to find a solution .I toured the 15 counties of Liberia and had consultative meeting with them pin-pointing major problems and finding remedy to these problems.We worked from this angle and this is where we have reached and expect to go far beyond.
Why is your team uniquely qualified to run this venture?
My team is uniquely qualified to run this venture because of the level of experience we have had in dealing with our principal customers,the local cocoa farmers and former Child Soldiers.
This team sees no barrier in overcoming challenges especially trading on deplorable road networks with people from diversified background and orientation.
Besides the level of experience gathered so far in this venture, my team is equipped with some academic credentials that contribute to the excellence in the success of our business operations in Liberia.I am a senior student reading Accounting major and Economics minor and Habib Sheriff is holds a BBA in Business Administration.Above all,my team is relentless.
What is the urgent social or environmental need you're addressing?
Poverty in Liberia has spread and deepened over the past decades. It is estimated that 76% of the population live below the poverty line of US$1 a day and 52% even live in extreme poverty of under US$0.50 a day. In this regard, we provide technical,financial and logistical supports to cocoa farmers to enhance the productivity of their work and in return purchase the produce yielded from their farmings.
For this, 20 farmers have seen their abandoned farms coming back to fruition and 50 child soldiers disposable incomes have improved significantly along the year. In so doing, we are meeting a serious social need by creating job opportunities for abandoned folks in the Liberian society. We are also contributing to the peace & security of the country employing former child soldiers
What is your solution to this need? Describe your business strategy.
My strategy to this need is to work in close collaboration with the Liberian Produce & Marketing Corporation (Government Agency) with oversight responsibility over produce business to identify more abandoned farms and farmers for consideration in our projects and to work closely with the Initiative for the Development of Former Child Soldiers (IDEFOCS), a venture that is run by Former Child Soldiers themselves in identifying more members for consideration.It is a serious business that needs serious attention.
Convince us it will work. What milestones have you achieved?
So far, we have revitalized three abandoned farms in three major counties in Liberia and have provided financial and logistical support to twenty farmers across Liberia.We have employed 50 former child soldiers who are now parts of the mainstream of the Liberian Economy.
With More support from partners in progress,we can impact the lives of thousands of Cocoa farmers, Former Child Soldiers and less privileged in the Liberian Society