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Solidaridad and Netherlands hand over Oil Palm Mills to SMEs in Liberia

Solidaridad and the Embassy of the Netherlands in Accra, Ghana have handed over four, efficient oil palm processing mills to four small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Liberia.

The beneficiary SMEs are located in the Grand Bassa, Lofa, and Nimba counties, respectively. Solidaridad is an international civil society organization.

The mills, according to a release, can process up to three tonnes of fresh fruit bunches per hour.

They are supporting the SMEs to scale up their processing activities, enhance farmers’ access to markets for oil palm fruit, and improve the production of palm oil in Liberia.

The mills were constructed as part of the interventions under the Sustainable West Africa Palm Oil Program (SWAPP) implemented by Solidaridad from 2018 to 2022 in Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, and Ghana.

The Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands in Accra provides the funding. The program has contributed to increasing the productivity, inclusivity, and sustainability of the West African palm oil sector through micro, small, and medium enterprises that provide farm management and milling services.

The Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands, through SWAPP, funded the design, fabrication, and installation of the machinery and equipment and related operating and maintenance training.

The beneficiary enterprises — Kpailama Agro Incorporated, Local Farm, Rainforest Agriculture Incorporated, and JEF Merchandise — provided the land, factory building, and related infrastructure.  

Boosting the oil palm sector by fulfilling an urgent need

For years, smallholder farmers in Liberia’s quest to process their fresh fruit bunches into crude palm oil have been on the decline due to less efficient mills and, sometimes, unhygienic pits that are operated manually and require a lot of time and energy, as well as pose safety challenges.

The four new mills have an oil extraction rate of about 14% which is an improvement over existing artisanal mills with a rate of less than 9%. 

They have provided over 200 direct jobs for residents of the communities where they operate, including youths and women, and more than 700 indirect jobs in the supply chain.

Sylvester Kpai, Chief Executive Officer of Kpailama Agro, one of the beneficiary SMEs in the Lakker community in Nimba County, said the mill has enabled his company to process the first hygienic edible oil for sale in various markets.

“Most of our previous products were sold to customers who use the oil mainly for cosmetic products. Today, we are producing and packaging edible oil that ends up on dinner tables, in restaurants, and on the market,” he said.

Collectively, the mills are currently serving over 5,000 smallholders and out-growers in the counties where they are located. The smallholders have recorded a sharp increase of more than two times in their production and income.

“We could not have attained the level of transformation in the livelihoods of these farmers and processors in Liberia if they had continued using the pits and manual machines we met when we began the intervention,” said Isaac Gyamfi, Regional Director of Solidaridad West Africa.

He said he was glad that today, many lives have been positively impacted because of these installations. 

“These mills have made processing a lot easier for the farmers and processors, increasing their productivity as well as income,” said Gyamfi.

The Ambassador of the Netherlands to Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, Jeroen Verheul, believes the contribution of his government has been significant in directly impacting the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

“The Netherlands actively promotes trade and investment in West Africa. This goes beyond enabling Liberian smallholder farmers to produce and sell more of their products,” he said. 

Amb. Jeroen noted that promoting local processing of raw materials in Liberia is one of the explicit objectives that has been achieved with the construction, handing over, and operation of these oil mills. 

“The Embassy looks back on strong collaboration with Solidaridad, the beneficiary enterprises, and the Liberian authorities, enabling us to have achieved this significant result,” Amb. Jeroen said.

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