The United States Agency for International Development Food and Enterprise Development (USAID FED) Program, in collaboration with the Government of Liberia (GoL), has inaugurated the Liberia Business Incubator (LBI) Cassava Processing Facility in Lower Virginia, Montserrado County.
Liberia Business Incubator is a fully incorporated Liberian owned and run agricultural holding firm created in 2010 to tackle food insecurity in the country by improving the livelihoods of farmers and providing them with increased access to domestic and international food markets.
Launching the cassava processing facility in lower Virginia on Wednesday, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex Tyler, thanked the CEO of LBI, Madam Rugie Barry, for taking up the challenge by ensuring that Liberia has a cassava processing facility that is responsible to add value to cassava by producing gari, fufu and flour.
He said the government will take into consideration the establishment of plants that will help farmers to keep their products in better condition.
The Speaker thanked the American government for the venture and hoped that USAID FED continues it.
“The issue that has been difficult to address is how do our farmers preserve what they produce. We have established plants for processing facilities but we need to start thinking about building facilities that will preserve products and produce in order for our farmers to benefit from their products,” Speaker Tyler said.
“We have been eating rice for too long and it’s important to eat other foods. So let us encourage our farmers, and work tirelessly to produce the best foods and at the same time promote their products by purchasing them,” he urged.
US Ambassador, Deborah Malac, said the inaugurated processing plant was supported by the USAID FED project under which the American Government’s Feed the Future Program is responsible to increase productivity and profitability of food crops stimulate agricultural enterprise and build agriculture work force capacity.
According to her, the project implemented a cost-sharing development model that encourages the investment of private resources into businesses to ensure their sustainability.
“In 2014, the project delivered on its promise to cost share the establishment of this processor with US$44,950 worth of equipment comprising cassava grater, hammer mill, dryer for gari making, cassava peeler, sifters and a generator. The LBI invested $35,760 into construction of a shelter as its shared cost,” she explained.
Ambassador Malac disclosed that the role of government is critical to the success of the cassava value chain. The Ministries of Agriculture and Commerce and Industry were instrumental in creating a strong business enabling environment that will help farmers and agribusiness to progress beyond and local markets to supply expertise.
“Successful development of the cassava value chain needs more than just farmers. It needs manufacturers, marketers, aggregators, financial institutions and processors like the ones we are inaugurating today as well as the contributions of development partners and the private sector,” she asserted.
She pledged her country’s commitment to working with the Government of Liberia towards achieving the objectives set forth in its strategy documents such as the Agenda for Transformation and the Liberia Agriculture Sector Investment Plan (LASIP).
“The inauguration of this cassava processing plant is one small but important step towards achieving those objectives,” said the US ambassador.
USAID FED Chief of Party Agnes Luz thanked LBI CEO for their great efforts to ensure that Liberians benefit from its own local food.
She said her organization began supporting LBI in 2015 through the procurement of cassava processing equipment and through its support to LBI to help to add value to cassava by processing it into products such as gari, fufu and others.
The farmers have generally benefitted from the provision of hand tools, better quality cassava planting materials and training that have improved their knowledge and skills in cassava farming practices.
CEO Rugie Barry said what prompted her to establish the processing industry was her determination to improve the country’s agricultural activities by providing and processing Liberian local foods.
“Cassava is Liberia’s second staple crop and one of the primary sources of income for rural farmers. It plays a role in food security, especially since it can be harvested before the rice harvest and is often planted as a follow-on crop to rice.
“Following my travels to other countries, I noticed that all of the foods that grow in Liberia were processed and sold in super markets and other areas. [Having] attended the African Women Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP-Liberia) encouraged me to begin investing in planting cassava. Today my dream of having a processing industry has come true,” CEO Rugie exclaimed.
She disclosed that she had started exporting her locally made products, including gari, fufu, among others to the United States of America and hopes to expand her supply to other countries.
Liberia's total cassava production in 2010 was estimated at 493,000 metric tons. Most of this was consumed at the household level or traded locally at the surrounding community markets.
"As cassava is Liberia’s second staple crop and one of the primary sources of income, all Liberians must join the effort by planting and making different kinds of foods from cassava processing," Speaker Tyler said.
LBI is a fully incorporated Liberian owned and run agricultural holding firm created in 2010 to tackle food insecurity in Liberia. This centrally located cassava processing facility will provide farmers from surrounding counties with a critical outlets for locally grown cassava and the opportunity to achieve access to wider markets such as America, in order to encourage cassava production and export.