Commercial farming is a new phenomenon in Liberia’s agriculture sector as small holder farmers have historically been content with subsistence farming. This has partially been due to the difficulties in accessing money from commercial banks. Banks do not trust the farmers’ ability to repay and in turn farmers are not willing to take loans at the high interest rates being offered by the banks.
To promote access to finance for small holder farmers in Liberia, the Liberia Entrepreneurial Asset Development (LEAD) and the USAID Food and Enterprise Development Program for Liberia (USAID FED) have partnered to provide financial assistance to farming organizations.
USAID FED provides the project’s beneficiaries with training on basic financial management principals and then links them with LEAD for loans. One such organization that has benefited from this program is the Zeelie Farmers Association based in Voinjama District, Lofa County.
“We are glad to be among the nine farming organizations benefiting from the LEAD loan program in coordination with USAID FED since December 2014. We received US$10,000 which was invested in buying paddy rice from farmers and sold to the government and a local partner (Fabrar Inc.). As part of our priorities, we hope to make more profits in order to buy a vehicle that will be used to purchase rice in the various farming villages to support our members,” John Selma, lead farmer of the Zeelie Farmers Association disclosed.
From December 2014 thru February 2015, the Zeelie farmers sold 5.25 metric tons of 50kg paddy rice to the government and Fabrar Inc., for a total of USD $98,893.00.
“This is a significant income generated since our farming partnered with USAID FED. The loan received from LEAD has created not only income for our organization, but also market opportunities for many local farmers in the villages”, Selma mentioned.
USAID FED has assisted the Zeelie farmers with the construction of irrigation structures and provided power tillers to plow the lowland rice field. The farmers have also been trained on how to grow lowland rice according to improved practices.
As a result of these interventions, the farmers have experienced a dramatic increase in their yield, harvesting nearly 200-50kg bags from their seven hectare plot – a ten-fold increase over previous years when they used traditional farming methods.
USAID FED will continue to work with farm groups such as Zeelie to help improve their economic livelihoods through improved technology interventions, access to financing, adaptation of best practices and providing linkages for market opportunities.
From 2013, the LEAD partnership with USAID FED has seen the disbursement of a USD $82,800.00 to 722 of USAID FED supported farmers in Montserrado, Margibi, Nimba and Lofa counties.
The USAID FED Program for Liberia aims to reduce hunger and promote food security for Liberians by increasing agricultural productivity and profitability across food based value chains, stimulating enterprise development and building the agriculture workforce. The program is implemented in six counties: Bong, Nimba, Lofa, Grand Bassa, Margibi and Montserrado.
USAID FED is Africa’s largest project under President Barack Obama’s Feed the Future Initiative, which promotes a move away from subsistence and increasing food security by working with public and private bodies.