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Re-building markets in Lofa County, Liberia

A market reconstruction project recently finished by Concern Worldwide in northern Liberia was officially opened by President Madam Ellen Sirleaf Johnson.

At the opening, President Ellen Johnson made a speech before handing the running of the market over to the local superintendent of markets, Lofa County and its community.

During 14 years of civil war in Liberia, the population were displaced on a massive scale to internally displaced (IDP) camps and neighbouring countries as refugees.

Lofa County in the northern part of the country was one of the most affected by the war. 95% of the infrastructure; roads, bridges, clinics, schools, wells, latrines, community centres, houses were devastated in Lofa, indicating of the impact of conflict on the area.  

Returning home

With the gradual restoration of peace in Liberia, most people have returned to their homes from IDP and refugee camps and forest hideouts.  An estimated 120,000 people have returned to Lofa County in the last 18 months. More are joining them, albeit at a slower rate. These returnee families and existing communities face a number of difficult challenges due to the lack of infrastructure.

Schools, clinics and markets were looted during the war. After the conflict, very little was left standing. A World Food Programme (WFP) survey confirmed the widespread destruction of the basic social services such as schools, health centres and hospitals, shelters, and farms.

Communities have had to rely on buying basic food items from markets in neighbouring countries.

Markets a priority

Research found that market places are ranked as one of the two main development priorities for the county.  In terms of community development, as a result of this research Concern has focussed on the reconstruction of markets in Lofa County. 

The rehabilitation of market structures in this area has and will continue to greatly alleviate the difficulties faced by small scale traders. After the conflict, a number of households are headed solely by women with no male support.  These households mainly rely on farming to support themselves, but now with the re-opening of markets are able to sell produce, providing their only cash income.

While the marketplace provides a chance for people to earn a living it could also help mitigate ethnic tension. This was a major factor in the conflict in Lofa and so the markets help resettle the local population in more ways than one.