Agriculture Ministry Empowers Several Farmers, Processors with Farm Machineries

Ms. Jeanine Cooper, Liberia’s Minister of Agriculture. 

The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) has enhanced the capacities of several smallholder farmers and processors with different kinds of farm machinery to increase their productivity.

The initiative aims to mitigate the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on the lives of Liberian smallholder farmers and agribusiness owners. The farm equipment provided to the beneficiaries included rice mills, de-stoners, power tillers, cassava mills, threshers, and vegetable peelers, among others.

More than 80 farmers and processors selected from across the country benefited from the exercise, which was held Tuesday, September 7 at the MOA Project Management Unit in Gardnersville, Monrovia. Making a brief remark when presenting the machinery, Agriculture Minister Jeanine Milly Cooper said that the government intends to build the capacities of farmers and agribusiness owners to enable them to overcome the effects of the global pandemic.

It can be recalled that in the year 2020, stringent measures were taken by the Liberian government to curtail the further spread of the virus. This adversely affected farming in the agricultural sector as most farmers stayed away from productive farming activities. Minister Cooper said the government, through her Ministry, was cognizant about the effect the virus could pose. Therefore, with support from the World Bank, a response plan was developed to assist farmers and value chain actors.

“Since the COVID struck us, we had to organize ourselves to see how best we can support our farmers. The virus not only affects us but the global food supply chain,” she said. According to the Minister, during the height of the pandemic in the country, everyone was worried about where they would get food, in case of a shortage.

“Our country still hugely relies on food imports. This is why we designed programs where we can support our farmers to produce more to overcome any food shortage,” she informed the beneficiaries. Minister Cooper said that the intervention to empower people in the sector is important to help reduce the country’s dependency on rice imports.

According to her, the Ministry is working to build the capacity of farmers so that the country can reduce rice imports. “This initiative will also introduce our farmers and agribusinesses to mechanized agriculture as it is the way forward to food self-sufficiency. No longer are we limited to manual labor,” she added.

Konah Kermie, a beneficiary, said that farmers were grateful to the government for the assistance because up to now they have been farming manually, which is taking them nowhere.

He said that building the capacity of processors was key to enhancing the incomes of smallholder farmers. “We are receiving this equipment today that will be used to add value to the produce of farmers,” he said.

Kermie is a farmer with disability, who became the  master farmer of the Ministry of Agriculture when awarded by President George M. Weah this year at the annual agriculture fair. He told reporters in an exclusive interview that they were thankful to the government for empowering them.