Solidaridad Liberia, a non-governmental organization operating in five continents through Regional Expertise Centers (RECs) has begun the graduation of 1, 916 farmers who have successfully gone through the organization’s Farmer Field School in Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties.On June 14, 2019, the organization launched two major programs to boost the sustainable production of cocoa and oil-palm in the Country.
The Programs, dubbed the Cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Program (CORIP) and the Sustainable West Africa Oil-Palm Programme (SWAPP, are supporting over 42,000 cocoa and oil-palm farmers in Liberia to improve their incomes and livelihoods.
The 3.8 million Euros projects, funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ghana, is expected to end in December 2021.Out of that number, a little over four hundred participants are from Bong County.
The trained farmers will now be able to venture into the production of cocoa and other local crops which will enable them to cater to their needs including domestic affairs.
Giving an overview of the training, Solidaridad Liberia Cocoa Program Manager Boima Bafaie says Liberia’s cocoa farmers have difficulties reaching even half of the average yields found in other West African countries with similar climatic and environmental conditions suitable for cocoa production.
Mr. Bafaie maintains that the situation is due to low quality of planting materials, aged and un-rehabilitated farms, poor and improper farm management practices or skills, lack of post-harvest management skills and weak market incentive to produce quality cocoa.
He indicates that these problems coupled with unequal access and control of inputs and farm income by women and men have resulted in low yield per hectare, now averaging 150-200 kilograms per hectare, compared with 550 kilograms per hectare and 700 kilograms per hectare in Ghana and Cote d’ Viore, respectively.He explains that Solidaridad West Africa as a global network organization with its years of experience in the cocoa sector [in] West Africa is implementing two cocoa programs in Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties.
He notes that this is in support of Liberia’s cocoa sector revitalization efforts by the Government of Liberia’s donor partners including the European Union and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands based in Accra, Ghana.
According to him, the overall objective of the program is to create a vibrant, competitive and profitable cocoa economy driven primarily by farmer groups / associations and private sector supply chain companies, within a robust national regulatory and institutional framework.
Further, Mr. Bafaie tells the gathering that through the program, farmers will have access to inputs (planting material, fertilizer, pesticides) and extension services through economically viable and operationally feasible models for production support.
“Today, and over the next three days, we will be graduating 1, 916 farmers who have successfully gone through our farmer field school in several communities facilitated by over 77 communities facilitators,” he concludes.
Our Bong County correspondent who attended the program says there was total excitement in the faces of the graduates as many continue to praise the organization for a job well done.Some of the training modules includes cocoa ecosystem, cocoa husbandry, nursery establishment and management, and cocoa rehabilitation, among others.
Speaking to journalists after the program, some of the beneficiaries Dorcas Jankpalah from Panta District and Peter Flomo described the ceremony as a new day in their lives.
The beneficiaries expressed confidence that they will be self-empowered when it comes to provision of food and other needed materials for their household.
“I am speechless as I stand before you. I don’t even know what to say because I am very happy. Through the training, I can now boast of my own cocoa and plantain farms which total about eight acres of land,” Dorcas Jankpalah says.
According to her, through the training, she will now be able to serve as helper to her husband in terms of providing food and buying other things for the home.
For his part, Peter Flomo encourages other young people to take advantage of Solidaridad training program and stop wasting their lives on unnecessary things.“Right now we all know that the country is hard, so as young people we need to start working for ourselves and that will effectively be done when we pay attention to things that will benefit us,” he concludes.–Edited by Winston W. Parley