Citizens of Bomi County have confessed that their failure to produce more food, especially cassava and other tubers in the county is due to lack of markets and under pricing of the commodities by buyers from Monrovia.
They made the assertion on February 28, 2015 in Klay District where about 30 farmers converged to discuss and find solutions to problems affecting cassava farming in the county.
The discussion was organized by a local non-governmental organization, the Human Development Foundation (HDF).
During the discussion, farmers stressed that they produce cassava, but there is no market to sell the commodity to earn equitable income.
“We work too much to produce the cassava, but as we transport it at high cost to the market, buyers from Monrovia will price the goods less and we will not have any money to take home after transportation fares. In many instances the cassava gets rotten and we end up making fufu (fermented cassava) which cannot easily be sold,” one farmer said.
The farmers said this is one major condition that causes them to feel reluctant to cultivate large hectares of land. The farmers also identified disunity as one key factor hindering productivity in Bomi.
They claimed that it is difficult for people to join and work together despite group work system that the Human Development Foundation has introduced.
Giving an overview of the discussion earlier, the Executive Director for HDF, Sensee L. Sirleaf, Sr. said seeing the need to add value to cassava to be the second to Liberian staple food, rice, they have received funding from the World Bank through the Ministry of Agriculture and his group has been engaged to reach the farmers with the project.
He added that the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP) is working along with MOA as the German Agro non-governmental organization; Welt Hungerhlife provides oversight in the implementation of the project.
Mr. Sirleaf explained that the Innovation Platform cassava value chain is meant to take farmers from just producing a few tubers of cassava for eating to go into business instead.
Under the Innovation Platform, he said they are bringing together the producers that represent farmers, the processors, the policy makers, transporters and nutritionists.
He emphasized that in addition to the problem affecting farmers, there are no processing plants that will transform the raw cassava into other valuable forms to be more nutritional.
He told the farmers that as they understand the needs and challenges, they will take to donors what they gathered from the discussion to find the appropriate solutions.
In HDF’s three operational districts, including Dewur, Klay and Seinjeh, Mr. Sirleaf said they have one processing plant for now and are hoping to set other plants in the rest of the districts to make it easy for farmers to take their cassava there for processing.
He said they have cultivated 30 hectares of cassava in the three districts and HDF extension agent is assigned there to teach the farmers the system of planting on mounds and ridges that encourage high yield.
HDF and partners, according to Mr. Sirleaf, provide tools including wheelbarrows, cutlasses and rice to a group of farmers to help make their farms.
Also speaking on the significance of engagement in cassava farming in Bomi, West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program County Officer, Kemoh Sheriff told the farmers that the Government of Liberia, World Food Program and Mary’s Meal are to soon provide the market for cassava.
Mr. Sheriff said Mary’s Meal, based in Bomi, has decided to purchase gari to feed students in that county.
The Bomi gari is a nutritional type of cassava product that contains ingredients such as peanuts and sugar.
He also disclosed that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has asked the World Food Program (WFP) to purchase locally produced food items, including rice and gari to use in school feeding programs, instead of corn, soya and bulgur wheat.
Mr. Sheriff, who received applause from the farmers for his entertaining explanation, told them that demands especially from Mary’s Meal places people in the county under obligation to produce more cassava as gari from Bomi is to soon take center stage in business on the Liberian market.
After identifying the problems and revealing marketing opportunities that will soon come to the county, heads of farmers of the Klay District that converged for the discussion formed the Innovation Platform and elected their leaders.
The leaders are to work with farmer groups in the three districts to achieve the goals of the project partners.