First-time Buyers: Facilitating Integration of the Very Poor into Emerging Commercial Value Chains in Liberia
Mahawa Wheeler of ACDI/VOCA presented “First Time Buyers: Facilitating the Integration of the Very Poor into Emerging Commercial Value Chains in Liberia.” The seminar was the 49th installment of the Linking Small Firms to Competitiveness Strategies Breakfast Seminar Series sponsored by the USAID Microenterprise Development office.
Wheeler began by providing the audience with background of the Agriculture for Children's Empowerment (ACE) project, for which she is Chief of Party. ACE is a four-year pilot project focusing on vegetable and rice value chains; the project is two years underway. The aim of ACE is "to improve the well-being of vulnerable children through raising household income using competitive agricultural value chain activities." Wheeler stressed the importance of increasing productivity to protect vulnerable populations against international market price fluctuations and high food prices. She outlined aspects of the operational context, including the relationship that exists between smallholders, buyers and service providers, and discussed the enabling environment. ACE's strategy is to use facilitation techniques to change behavior. Wheeler stressed the importance of relationship building and trust. The presentation closed with details of the initial results achieved by the project, as well as some of the lessons learned to date.
An international development expert with field experience in East, West and Southern Africa, Mahawa Kaba Wheeler currently serves as the chief of party of ACDI/VOCA's Agriculture for Children's Empowerment program, an innovative program that uses economic development efforts to promote child welfare. Previous to her current role, she worked as a vulnerable-child expert for ACDI/VOCA, where she provided in-depth analysis of the underlying causes of vulnerability among children and participated in agricultural value chain analyses. Before joining ACDI/VOCA, Ms. Wheeler worked for the United Nations' World Food Program (WFP) in Burundi as a program officer in charge of vulnerability analysis and mapping and monitoring and evaluation. She also worked in Uganda for the WFP as the regional gender and program officer.