On an otherwise reasonable evening, more than 1,000 people packed an auditorium in Boulder, Colorado, for the culmination of the 2012 Unreasonable Institute. They came to see 23 ventures present their solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges.
Sheikh A. Turay, Founder & Director of Liberation Chocolate, shares how his venture is creating employment opportunities for former child soldiers in Liberia and revitalizing the cocoa agriculture industry to change lives and give hope to Liberians.
After 14 years as a refugee in the Ivory Coast, Sheikh returned to Liberia and saw overgrown farms as far as the eyes could see and also saw former child soldiers turning in their guns in order to receive $150. 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. Sheikh 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, he worked with a single community to clean the first farm and make it farmable. From here, Liberation Chocolate generated the first capital of our venture. Today the venture is profitable, employing 50 former child soldiers and looking to expand. In two years, they strive to have a chocolate production plant and employ 100 former child soldiers and revive the spirit of cocoa production.
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.