April 30, 2020

Women-led farming incubator don PPE

On 10 April, lockdown measures were introduced in Liberia, six days after the first death from COVID-19 was officially confirmed. Liberia, still healing from the scars of the devastating Ebola outbreak that swept West Africa in 2014, is all too familiar with disease-prevention measures.

Rugie Barry is the female founder and CEO of Liberia Business Incubator (LBI), a food-processing agri-business that incubates women farmers and trains them in skills such as pest and disease control, environmental and waste management, food safety and customer service. Barry was relieved that her sector is allowed to remain operational during lockdown since they produce vital food supplies.

Farmers process a local ready-to-eat meal called Super Gari (roasted shredded cassava mixed with shredded roasted coconut, powder milk and sugar) © 2019, Rugie Barry

To date, LBI works with 1,265 farmers and employs over 30 permanent and seasonal staff. LBI’s employees are now wearing masks and gloves throughout the production process. Barry says food quality and safety continues to be the company’s main priority. Yet, the costs of personal protective equipment (PPE) are bringing additional hardship.

LBI’s products are usually sold at restaurants, supermarkets and schools. However, a drastic reduction in sales as a result of the lockdown measures forced Barry to seek alternative solutions. Now, a delivery service is providing her customers with the cassava products and ready-to-eat meals.