4.2. A "County Training and Development Center"
for the Regional Implemeutation of Rural Development
For its implementation, rural development requires a suitable
institutional basis. The existing institutions, as described
above, do not suffice for this purpose because they have been
set up for other purposes than to facilitate rural development.
Rural development, in this context, requires, basically, institutions
- the political needs of the people = rural administration
- the economic needs of the people = organization of peasants'
- the training needs of people = training center.
These three basic institutions for rural development have
to operate in close collaboration as they affect each other
and need each other's assistance to fulfill their purposes.
They should, therefore, be located in a `Training and Development
The regional approach makes it necessary to define the region
according to its size. It has to be large enough to provide
sufficient economic potential and human resources, small enough
to assure closeness to the grassroots and to the population.
Taking into account the existing administrative setup, a county
seems to be the proper unit on the understanding that the
entire county area should not be included immediately in the
activities, but rather the economically more active, more
densely populated and easily accessible parts only.
Transport and communication difficulties might make it necessary
to concentrate, in the first instance, on an area which resembles
more a district. As there is no full fledged administration
at district level, the county, in spite of its large area,
seen, to be the more proper unit. The whole institutional
setup as described definitely needs time to be fully implemented.
The scheme should be understood as a long term plan, which
might be realized in a county within 6-10 years. At the beginning,
concentration on one county only seems to be advisable in
order to gain experience, train people and make the necessary
a. The Political Aspect: A New Type of Rural Administration
The existing rural administration has been designed to maintain
law and order, to ensure tax collection and to preserve existing
customs and habits. It has not been designed for development
and is not suitable for developmental purposes The first requirement
for the implementation of rural development is, therefore,
to design a new type of local administration which is suitable
for that purpose. The following changes in the present administration
seem to be necessary:
- The County Superintendent has to be upgraded from a personal
representative of the President to the head of the local
administration, with the duty to plan, coordinate and implement,
in coordination with the appropriate bodies, all development
activities in his county.
- A County Development Council has to be created. It should
consist of the representatives of the population (chiefs,
elders, leaders of the secret societies, etc.) according
to the local customs, and of the local officers of the technical
departments of the government The council should be under
the chairmanship of the Superintendent and, in principle,
decide on all matters of development within the county.
Naturally, the work of this council will improve in time
as more experience is gained. Therefore its activities might
start as a discussion forum, later on take the form of an
advisory body and, finally, come to the stage of decision
making. Care has to be taken to have not only aged persons
among the representatives, but also active and young persons.
This would be possible by reserving special seats for the
younger generation, by appointments on merits etc.. Similar
councils could be set up at the district level.Wherever
District Development Committees exist, they could probably
be used for that purpose.
- A County Development Office should be created as a sort
of secretariat for the Superintendent and the Council to
execute the decisions of the Council and grant administrative
support. The officers of the technical departments should
be integrated to that office where they could, at the same
time, exchange information on their special activities,coordinate
these and assist each other in order to obtain the optimal
The purpose of this new type of administration would be to
involve local authorities (and, through them, the local population)
in the planning and execution of projects for the development
of the county and its population. Projects of minor scope
should be executed by this administration on its own competence
especially projects of self help type and the county should
have a budget to that effect as well as the right of imposing
limited taxation for development purposes. Major projects
should be submitted to the government for approval, but whenever
possible, be returned to the county level for execution.
Thus, planning is done at the regional level where people
know their own and their region's needs and possibilities.
For instance, it is only at this level that it is known where
feeder roads are needed. The planning process should start
with an inventory of the local assets and needs. A county
development plan should .be elaborated on that basis and take
into account all aspects like agriculture, roads, health,
education, marketing, at,. This plan, after extensive discussion
with the local population at meetings of the different tribes
and towns, in order to involve fully the people and mobilize
local resources, should be sent to the government for approval.
Thus, it is assumed that the plan will concur with the goals
of the national development planning. The combination of local
planning and government approval will assure a steady communication
process between the central government and the local population.
The government has to make the people aware of its intentions
and is informed, in turn, about the felt needs and the plans
of the people.
b. The Economic Aspect: Organization of Peasants' Cooperatives
The main needs of the rural population which economic institutions
have to satisfy are the supply of requirements for rural life,
the marketing of agricultural products, the supply of credit
always including advice as to how to use these necessities
properly. Today, these needs have either not been met or are
handled in a way which is disadvantageous to the peasants.
These economic needs should be satisfied in a cooperative,
i. e. a non- profit basis. In view of the fact that the majority
of peasants are illiterate, that the personnel available has
received no intensive training, and that the turnover is very
limited because of the low production, village cooperatives
along the Raiffeisen- Rochdale principles do not appear suitable.
Because of the existing conditions, a two-tier cooperative
system is suggested: a cooperative should be formed at the
county level and employ trained staff for the execution of
the activities, while the representatives of the member associations
engage only in planning, advice and control. Thus, supervision
and execution are separate and each lies in the hands of persons
who are capable of performing the job. This County Cooperative
carries out all business activities of the cooperative structure:
marketing, warehousing, supply of inputs, credits, etc. Needless
to say that such a cooperative has to have an initial capital
stock to be able to function. At a certain stage saving perhaps
compulsory saving of small amounts, but on a regular basis
could be introduced and could improve the financial situation
of the cooperatives.
At the local (town, clan) level, the peasants who are members
of the County Cooperative, should join in peasants' associatrorm.
These local peasants' associations do not engage in business
activities, but are outposts of the County Cooperative and
serve as organization for local collection and distribution
on behalf of the County Cooperative. Besides, they are of
the utmost importance for credit, excension activities and
soil conservation. To a certain extent, they constitute a
gathering of the clan for development purposes.
Credit, in principle, is a dangerous tool for peasants whose
integration in the market economy is limited. It easily leads
to higher consumption and inability to repay. Most Liberian
traditional farmers have not reached the stage of development
at which credit can he used advantageously. A strict control
of credit wherever it is used for productive purposes is of
great importance. Here, local peasants' associations with
their intimate knowledge of persons and conditions can be
of great value. They are in a position to supervise whether
credit is granted only in cases where it is justified and
whether it is used for the proper purpose. If the local peasants'
association is required to assume part of the financial responsibility
for the credit, the risk involved for the cooperative is considerably
Extension service should be completely integrated into the
cooperative system. Thus, the impact of the extension service
could be increased, whereas its current organization is completely
unsuitable for traditional farmers. Masses of small peasants
cannot be offered individual extension service as is the case
now for a few larger farmers unless they are organized and
methods of mass extension work are used. The extension aids
should be on the staff of the county cooperative. Thus, a
close relation between extension work, supply of inputs, marketing
and credit is possible. Normally, the extension aids of the
cooperatives should not work with individual peasants, but
with the peasants' association and organize demonstration,
experiments, etc. for the members. This extension work is
also closely related to the County Training Center.
Wherever shifting cultivation is phased out and arable crops
are cultivated on a permanent basis, proper soil conservation
becomes of the utmost importance. If peasants neglect this,
they ruin their land and the basis of their tribes' livelihood.
Control of proper soil conservation should, therefore, not
be left to the individual but vested with the peasants' association.
As many activities require joint effort, like terracing, etc.,
peasants' associations are the appropriate institutions to
organize such activities and make proper use of traditional
customs like work cooperatives.
c. The Training Aspect: A County Training Center
The main training needs for traditional farmers lie in agriculture::
they must learn how to improve cultivation. As in traditional
societies, agricultural change must be thought of in terms
of social change; the training should also be designed to
help people in making this change. It has to incorporate aspects
of adult education. There is also a need for training in such
subjects as health, nutrition, rural crafts, ac.
In order to satisfy these needs, it seems necessary to establish
a County Training Center. This should be done in connection
with one of the new "Community Schools". (The whole
scheme outlined here is an extensive broadening of the approach
of the Community School). Transportation difficulties might
make it advisable to undertake the activities at several of
these schools. Thus, distances would be reduced and communication
Teachers at the County Training Center would be, besides
the teachers of the Community School, the county level government
officers, the extension workers and other cooperative personnel.
Much of the training could be done in short courses covering
specific subjects. The main activity, however, should be the
continuous training of a cadre of local leaders The large
number of people makes it impossible to engage everybody in
a permanent training process at the center. Therefore, 2-
3 members should be selected, perhaps one of the traditional
leaders, and in order to get younger persons as well a model
farmer appointed on merits. The representatives of the peasants'
association should assemble once a week at the County Training
Center to receive instruction in agriculture and related fields.
Training should be very practical, consist, as often as possible,
of field work and concentrate on subjects which are related
to the crops actually being grown during that season. In order
to make participation attractive, a travelling allowance should,
be paid. Persons who do not attend regularly should be replaced.
On the day following that assembly, the peasants' associations
should organize their weekly meeting, at which the participants
of the Training Center course should explain to the other
members what they have learned
the day before. Thus, a certain snowball effect will be achieved.
Once in a while, a member of the cooperative extension staff
should be present to assist in the explanations and to check
the degree of comprehension of the course participants in
order to make early adjustments in the training course possible.
This system has the advantage of multiplying the effectiveness
of the limited extension staff.