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“Terrorism is a Poverty Issue”


Kent Bubbs, Founder, Universal Outreach Foundation

According to a United Nations report this October— and contrary to public perception—many extremists in developing countries in Africa are not motivated by religious ideology. The UN reports a survey of 500 members of African extremist groups. The vast majority cited lack of employment, healthcare, education, security and housing as the primary reasons they joined these violent groups. As it becomes clear that terrorism is a poverty issue in Africa, the United Nations pleas for the world to take action against poverty.

Is this good news? Sure it is, because poverty is an issue we can deal. Read on to learn about how the Universal Outreach community is dealing with it.

In early October, I traveled to Liberia with my cousin Ron Smith. Ron, a veteran Africa traveller with keen interest in UOF programs, who joined me so he could check out our approach to alleviating poverty. It was great to have him, his sense of humour and his wisdom on this trip.

The first stop on our trip was Cestos City, a coastal town only a hundred miles or so from Monrovia, but a solid seven hour drive on notoriously poor monsoon beaten roads. Cestos City has a population of a few thousand people and is located in the middle of a huge coconut belt that runs up and down Liberia’s coast. It’s also home to the new social enterprise Liberia Pure Coconut Oil (LIPCO).

Liberia Pure Coconut Oil (LIPCO) was established with grant funding from individuals (myself included) who believed so much in fighting poverty thru economic development, that they invested in the business without the benefit of receiving a tax receipt through Universal Outreach. They could see that when you invest in a country that ranks 199 in GDP at $455 per capita, it doesn’t take much to have a significant positive impact on the local economy and individual’s lives.

The day the coconut oil plant opened it offered farmers a higher price per coconut, provided an entirely new market for coconut growers and hired seven employees. To date these farmers have sold an additional 85,297 coconuts at a value of over $7100.00 USD. Within five months of starting production the business was selling coconut oil, coconut lip balm, coconut body lotion and coconut flour. All of the eventual profits will be funneled into further development and funding “Strive”, the Universal Outreach after school educational center with a focus on entrepreneur training.

Universal Outreach provides entrepreneurial mentoring to businesses that share our goal of fighting poverty through economic development and we’re happy to have Liberia Pure Coconut Oil join our mentorship program. Just like Liberia Pure Honey, we see the potential in this business elevating Liberia through job creation, added value manufacturing and a dedication to giving back.

After our visit to Cestos City, we were off to Ganta. It took ten hours of driving on rough roads to get to this city that is known as the honey capital of Liberia. It’s here where Universal Outreach is creating a beekeeper training center to provide educational resources for the blossoming number of beekeepers in this region.

This number of beekeepers is growing thanks to you. From a start of six beekeepers, we have now trained over 1000 people to bee keep and we plan to grow this number in the coming years. This is possible because you supported our advanced beekeepers training program and now there is a team of beekeepers able to travel the country and cultivate this skill in others (presently we are working in 10 of the 15 counties of Liberia). The UOF beekeeping training programs (basic and intermediate) are so well recognized that eight NGOs in Liberia have asked us to offer our program to communities they work with.

Thanks to Liberia Pure Honey, beekeepers are now being paid a healthy price for their honey. We’ve have been mentoring Liberia Pure Honey for years and I’m happy to report that the business has now moved into a profit position. Being a social enterprise, excess profits from the business will go into further developing the honey industry so more people can benefit. Besides the premium price Liberia Pure Honey pays to farmers for their honey, its first social investment was a contribution to the construction of the beekeeping training center in Ganta.

This trip reinforced my belief that Liberians need income generating opportunities to help them earn their way out of poverty, gain financial dignity and create stability for their family. By providing practical educational programs, business mentorships and basic education, all of us at Universal Outreach are helping to make this happen.

The United Nations Report claims “we aim to shift the focus of development economics from national income accounting to people-centered policies”. Universal Outreach believes in this and practices it every day.

“If we want to get serious about ending terrorism, we need to get serious about ending poverty.”