-as MOA jumpstarts activities
First in history, under the Weah administration with Madam Jeanine Cooper as Minister, the Ministry of Agriculture has netted US$15 million from government and partners to invest in the sector.
According to quarterly reports generated in mid 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture through the lobbying strategies of Minister Cooper secured the funding from the Liberian government, with the African Development Bank (ABD) providing US$3.1 million, while US$2.29 million came from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and US$10.525 million from the World Bank to support the COVID-19 National Emergency Food Security, Nutrition and Livelihood Plan.
The reports also indicates that of that last amount, US$5 million was channeled through the World Food Program as contribution to the government’s COVID-19 Household Food Support Program, which is meant to mitigate impacts on farmers, should the Covid-19 pandemic continue amidst global shutdown of supply chains that may affect food.
Minister Cooper is now focusing on agro machineries support with more than 200 pieces of agro-processing equipment, including power tillers, rice mills, tractors, and cassava processing machines being procured under the ministry’s Smallholder Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P) to enable farmers across the country shift from subsistence to mechanized farming.
Madam Cooper, who took over the ministry mid last year, has also engaged in provision of agrochemicals and fertilizers with more than 50 tons of various types of fertilizers and thousands of gallons of different insecticides and fungicides purchased through the Smallholder Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P) to protect insects and diseases against food and tree crops which farmers face at times.
In order to boast the agricultural sector and have more food, the Ministry provided seeds, including vegetable seeds to bring relief to farmers who have lost incomes as a result of the pandemic.
“In addition, under the emergency plan, cassava cuttings, rice seeds and oil palm seedlings have been procured with IFAD’s financing and African Development Bank’s financing commitments. ADB funds MOA’s Smallholder Agricultural Productivity Enhancement and Commercialization Project (SAPEC),” the report says.
Already, the ministry has kicked off distribution of varieties of fertilizers and agrochemicals as well as safety gears, beginning with 70 farmers groups in Montserrado and, with more transport logistics arrangements already in place, the distribution moves to Bong, Bomi, Gbarpolu Grand Bassa, Lofa, Grand Cape Mount, Margibi and Nimba counties next to be subsequently extended to counties in southeastern Liberia.
The Cooper’s leadership employed livestock producers, and empowered six large producers with feed mills to process feeds for their poultry, while a main producer in central Liberia received incubators to increase hatchery.
Vegetable seeds for Nimba and Lofa counties have been procured, while orders are in for 30 power tillers for those two counties under the IFAD’s financed TCEP projects. Additionally, more cassava processing, rice threshers and other agro machineries for farmers are expected in the country this year, the quarterly report indicates.
For the first time, Liberia now has a 30.4-hectare land cocoa seed garden in Beeplay, Nimba County. Planting of cocoa in this garden is progressing.
By 2025, the garden will provide cocoa seedlings to thousands of Liberian cocoa farmers who will not have to travel or import cocoa seeds from neighboring countries.
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) through the MOA’s Tree Crops Expansion Program (TCEP) is financing the garden’s development.
The Ministry under its joint IFAD and World Bank financed Smallholder Agriculture Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P), distributed 23,000 high-yielding oil palm seedlings to smallholder farming groups in Bomi, Bong, Grand Cape Mount, Lofa and Nimba counties to boost planting of new acreage of oil palm.
The STAR-P program is expected to purchase palm oil from local processors in order to stimulate purchasing from farmers who have limited access to markets. The palm oil that is purchased will form part of the national food reserves currently being managed by the General Services Agency.
For the agribusiness program, the ministry has made significant impact on the local market; the report shows there is a surge in the production of plant-based consumer packaged goods (CPG) in Liberia by small and medium enterprises. Liberians are producing soap and cosmetic products from palm and coconut oils, and from local Shea butter; several companies producing rum from sugar cane; fruit juices, baking and cooking mixes, food snacks like plantain chips and granola, dried fruit, spice rubs and seasonings, among others.
The report also points out that with World Bank’s funding, the Liberian government, through the MOA, has completed the evaluation of Liberian agribusinesses for both the formal and informal agribusinesses that applied for matching grants to minimize the effects of COVID-19 on them.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme, through the MOA has requested for an extension of the World Bank’s Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC) from December 31, 2020 to June 30, 2021 to allow WFP completes the remaining counties.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor–Editing by Jonathan Browne