"When they empower you, you begin to work. You grow a lot of food. Through the food you get money. Which means the children can go to school. It's great".
Susanna Edwards, farmer and mother, Grand Cedeh county, Liberia
Susanna Edwards is 53. She lives in one of the poorest regions of Liberia, and she has brought up her family largely alone, in addition to caring for her elderly mother. Her only source of income was from growing rice on a small plot of land miles from her home.
Like most local traditional farmers, Susanna found it difficult to grow a decent crop because of pests and the poor, dry soil. Also many of the region's rice-growing areas had been badly affected by years of civil war. Much of its agricultural infrastructure such as dams, mills and roads, had been destroyed and a lot of farmland left to return to bush.
Lift-off for local farmers
Then Susanna got involved in an innovative rice-growing project to turn swamps into rice paddies. Money donated by Oxfam supporters helped her local community to clear fields and repair dams and irrigation systems. This was just the lift Susanna and other families needed to change everything.
"Farming was hard and my plot was a six mile walk away," says Susanna. "This meant my children had to stay in town to go to school. I only used to see them at weekends. Then Oxfam came and now we have a farm right near my house. I'm happy."
This hasn't just made Susanna's life easier, it's started a chain reaction that will improve the future prospects of thousands of Liberia's poorest people - for good.
The biggest change of all
Not only are farms now much closer to home, but farmers have all the water they need, and the swampy land deters many of the pests that used to decimate rice crops. People are also given training and tools. But the biggest change is that farmers can plant a new strain of fast-growing rice that can be harvested within just three months. It all adds up to many more productive farms. There are hopes that this rice-growing revolution could help to rebuild the whole area's food production.
And with farmers now growing enough to feed their families, the aim is to make rice cheaper for everybody by reducing imports and making the region self-sufficient. So we are encouraging farmers like Susanna to join the local rice farmers' co-operative when they begin to produce a surplus. They will then get business training and use of the co-operative's refurbished rice mill, giving farmers the ability to earn more and a real chance of a better future.