President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has joined approximately 150,000 farmers here to register her farm under a new program being executed by the Liberian administration to transform Liberia’s agriculture sector.
The President was registered in at Klay Agriculture Vocational Training Center in Klay District, Bomi County in Western Liberia after officially launching the Liberia Agricultural Transformation Agenda E-registration of Farmers program on Saturday, 21 May.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the E-registration process which started on 21 March this year involves both small and big farmers in other to be able to track their activities wherever they are in Liberia.
The ministry indicated further that the E-registration platform creates a standard data-base, using a system that is up-scalable to include GPS coordinates or other relevant information that can support services to farmers with a view of increasing their skills and financial autonomy.
With the new program in place, President Sirleaf said the government will now be able know who are those that are really making big and small farms, where they are and how they can grow even bigger assistance as the example for others to follow.
Mrs. Sirleaf said her government thought that the way Liberia would begin to look like neighboring Ivory Coast, Ghana and Sierra Leone is by putting more into agriculture since it is the main thing that Liberia has.
“And so, I’m so glad that many farmers have started even before this event even before the registration. But they have started in a very small way. Some of them beginning to grow … ,” she said.
Sje applauded the Klay Agriculture Vocation Training Center for its progress, expressing government’s commitment to ensuring that when the students graduate, they would apply the skills acquired, rather than returning to riding motorcycles.
She said Liberia has always depended on rubber and iron ore on its road to development, but her administration started a shift to a more industrialized and commercialized oil palm production by reaching out to other countries, having realized that iron ore does not replenish itself. Still worried about food security, she said this was not enough for Liberia because it needed to be able to feed itself by producing enough, creating factories and exporting.
President Sirleaf commended Liberia’s partners for the support, particularly the African Development Bank or AfDB that she recalled, has committed itself to do more for Liberia’s farmers. Earlier speaking, Liberia’s Agriculture Minister Moses Zinah said the E-registration was not for small farmers alone, but involved big farmers, noting that the E-registration is the beginning of a revolution in the sector. He stressed the importance of knowing customers in the farming sector, where they are, what they are doing and what are their challenges, promising to document where the government was making investments and report to the President and her cabinet on how money was being spent.
According to him, the program will help the government better track farmers and link them to service providers along the whole value chain from production to marketing. “This will also enable us – and this is also important to monitor the activities not only of government’s intervention, but the intervention of NGOs and other people that are here spending millions of dollars in the name of helping our farmers,” Dr. Zinah said.
He noted that for the first time, beneficiaries of these NGOs will be tracked on the E registration platform “so that they can also account for the money that they are spending…,” adding that the NGOs and others that claim to be helping “us” will also be held accountable through the platform.
He thanked the AfDB for its support, and committed that the banks investments to the sector through grants and loans will be utilized properly. Also speaking, Youth and Sports Minister Saah N’Tow urged traditional leaders to begin to give students access to land to enable them make their own farms, noting that they may not be able to demonstrate what they learned if they are not given support.
Bomi County Superintendent Samuel Browne recommended to President Sirleaf the need for 100 acres of land to be allotted particularly for agriculture programs in every district of each county if agriculture is to be sustainable.
The students at the Klay Agriculture Vocational Training Center pleaded with President Sirleaf for graduation package such as seeds and tools in other to help them practice what they learn.
By Winston W. Parley