As part of the Post Ebola Economic Recovery in Liberia, GROW Liberia has launched a US$22 million budget facilitation of support to the development of markets and value chains in agriculture program in Monrovia.
The program is intended to initiate and promote economic growth and stability for the poor through partnerships with value chain actors, specifically targeting smallholder farmers in key agricultural sectors, including vegetables, rubber, oil palm and cocoa.
GROW Liberia's approach to agricultural intervention is expected to reduce poverty and increase stability for 230,000 poverty-stricken people in targeted agricultural markets.
The program has the potential to deliver up to US$46 million additional income to 34,000 farm enterprises and six thousand workers.
Launching the program yesterday, May 7, at the Monrovia City Hall, under the theme: “Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P)", Mr. Jaime Reibel, Team Leader of GROW Liberia, said the program is expected to last for five years beginning June 2013, funded by the Swedish Government through the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).
According to him, the program is being implemented by a consortium led by UK-based Adam Smith International, providing programmatic and financial direction, supported by the Springfield Centre, Mercy Corps and the Swedish Institute for Public Administration.
Giving the overview of the program, the GROW Team Leader said the first M4P agricultural intervention program in the country comes at a time when the country is striving to steer the economy away from its heavy reliance on the extractive sector toward industrialized agriculture.
Mr. Reibel indicated the challenges in the agriculture sector have hindered many vegetable farmers from acquiring the right seeds and other essentials to grow high-value vegetables such as tomatoes, cabbage, pepper and watermelon.
He said Liberia has remained one of the poorest countries in the world, with an economy heavily reliant on export earnings from the agriculture sector, but promised to change the story through successful agriculture programming.
According to him, the country’s agriculture sector has suffered from decades of lack of investment and serious capacity shortfalls in agriculture expertise and market information.
For her part, Swedish Ambassador to Liberia, Sofia Strand, said the launch of the GROW Liberia program is another milestone for the country, where both farmers and marketers stand to benefit from the project.
She said as a supporting partner of GROW project, her country has been a long standing partner to Liberia in several areas of development, "such as building a vibrant economy of this country, which is one of our areas of development," she said.
Amb. Strand promised her government's continued support to Liberia's economic recovery.
In his keynote address, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Amara Konneh, said that 2014 was a very difficult year for Liberia.
Highlighting the economic challenges that existed before the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia, he said the economy of Liberia was [already] in decline mainly due to external factor beyond its control, citing drops in the prices of rubber and iron ore on the global market. As a result, he submitted, when Ebola entered Liberia the entire economy was hit hard.
The Minister also said that agriculture is the main stream of the Liberia’s economy and, therefore needs the collective efforts of everybody to join with government to revamp the agriculture sector of our economy.