The importance of agro-inputs dealers in the efficient functioning of the agriculture sector cannot be overemphasized. They must play the crucial role of channeling improved seeds, cuttings, agro-chemicals and fertilizers as well as farm tools in an affordable way so that smallholder farmers in the food and cash crops value chains can increase production to make more profits.
To enable Liberian agro-inputs dealers to effectively play this role, Liberia Agribusiness Development Activity (LADA), the U.S Government-funded Feed the Future initiative, in July this year, commenced the renovation of targeted agro-dealer stores in Liberia under its Co-Investment Fund (CIF) grant initiative.
The Joan Agriculture Business Center and the New Farm General Supply and Construction in Montserrado County are the first two agro-dealers benefiting from this initiative. The total cost of the renovations is valued at US$10,000 and covers the replacement of wooden shelves with aluminum and fiber shelves as well as the painting of the stores. The improvements have led to the separation of agro-inputs from other general merchandise sold by these businesses and have also increased safety and appearance as well as meeting environmental compliance.
Under the CIF co-financing arrangement, beneficiary agro-inputs enterprises co-invest with LADA for their stores’ improvement on a cost share basis. This increases the amount available for the upgrade of their shops and also increases the amount of private-sector investment in the agricultural input system in Liberia, which is the goal of LADA.
Joan Williams of Joan Agriculture Business Center told the Daily Observer that the renovations will attract more customers to her business to boost income and increase inputs delivery to smallholder farmers. “The agro-inputs are now orderly arranged in my store and do not pose any environmental hazard to our many customers. LADA has increased our understanding of how to appropriately communicate with farmers on the use of agro-inputs,” she stated.
Joan, however, appealed to the government to further strengthen the capacity of agro-dealers to reach farmers with needed services. In the next few months, six additional agro-dealer stores, including the Becky Agro-Inputs Store, Rain Forest Agriculture (in Nimba County), Arise and Shine, Lorena Business Center and Quapolu Business Center (in Bong County), and Ma Bendu Farm in Montserrado County are expected to benefit from the initiative.
LADA is a 5-year project supporting Liberian agro-input dealers, smallholder farmers and food processors working in the rice, cassava, vegetables, and cocoa and aquaculture value chains in Montserrado, Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties.
LADA is implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) in a consortium that includes Business Startup Center Monrovia (BSC), Enclude, Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA), with Impact Advisory Services (IAS) and Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) as sub-contractors.