Solidaridad West Africa, in partnership with the European Union, has signed an agreement for the implementation of the Cocoa Value Chain Development Program (COVADEP) in Liberia.
The agreement is a 4-year intervention that seeks to reduce poverty by increasing incomes, improving livelihoods and the resilience and competitiveness of the Liberia Cocoa sector.
The four-year program is put at $US4million, which Solidaridad is expected to provide 1million.
During the signing ceremony on January 10, the Program Manager of Solidaridad, Boima Bafaie, told the gathering that the COVADEP program comes on the heels of about two years of implementation of the Liberia Cocoa Sector Improvement Program (LICSIP) by Solidaridad to create a vibrant, competitive and profitable cocoa economy within a robust national regulatory and institutional framework.
Mr Bafaie said under this partnership with the European Union, the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and COVADEP will implement and build on LICSIP by including more cocoa farmers, processors, associations and communities in the Bong, Grand Gedeh, Lofa, Nimba, and River Gee counties.
According to him, during this program, the organization will work with local partners and companies that are involved in the production and processing of cocoa in Liberia.
He also stated that the program will focus on young Agriculture graduates at various universities and colleges, adding that “we will take them through a two-year program to help them become entrepreneurs.”
He noted that there are lots of young people who after graduation do not have anything doing, and therefore this will serve as a means of creating an opportunity for them. “They are going to be trained in cocoa related intervention to help them at the end of this training to have incentive added.”
It is also expected that by 2023, the COVADEP program will set up 10 additional Centers for Cocoa Development (CCDs) to allow more cocoa farmers and allied groups to access several support services to improve productivity and produce sustainable and certified cocoa.
“Solidaridad will support more women and youth as entrepreneurs through incubation centers and promote cocoa value addition and certification through market engagement with international cocoa off-takers to enhance revenue generation for the Liberian economy,” said the manager.
The Director-General of LACRA, Dr. John Flomo, acknowledged that Solidaridad and his organization will develop the first cocoa and coffee policy in Liberia. “We look forward to deepening our working relationship under COVADEP to improve the quality of Liberian cocoa to be competitive on the international market and increase traceability,”
However, under this program, Solidaridad will strengthen the capacity of appropriate institutions to enforce inclusive sector policies, incubate new cocoa related small businesses, and develop systems for the supply of improved planting materials and investment incentives to promote downstream development.
The Regional Director of Solidaridad West Africa, Isaac Gyamfi, who signed the agreement on behalf of Solidaridad, pledged the organization’s commitment to supporting the continual improvement of the Liberian cocoa sector by contributing its vast experience in implementing cocoa sustainability programs across West Africa and around the world.
Gyamfi: “We consider our work successful when it improves the livelihood of farmers, increases national revenue and sector and maximizes benefits for all supply chain actors. We will use our skills, knowledge, and expertise to apply wisely the resources at our disposal to improve farmers’ living conditions in line with the government’s Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).”
He assures partners that with the support, they are going to use the resources available to improve the sector. He was confident that after four years the organization will sit at a table with champagne to celebrate the success of the program and the smile will be seen on the faces of Liberian people.
“We cannot continue to improve our work when we continue to do what we call mediocre agriculture. The fertility rate, where 60 percent of our youth are below 30 percent. No food, Africa has 56 percent of the arable land. We Africans must be able to feed ourselves. We need innovation and contextualized technology, “he said.
Ivan Borisavljevic, Team Leader for Resilience of EU signed the partnership agreement on behalf of the Union. He extolled Solidaridad for the high-level of expertise exhibited in the implementation of the cocoa program which is funded by the EU.
Borisavljevic: “This new contract with Solidaridad expands on our ongoing partnership to improve the Liberia cocoa sector.
“This is because we see cocoa as an important commodity to improve rural development, which is one of the EU’s key sectors of interventions,” saidBorisavljevic. He, however, assured the government of the EU’s continuous support to the development of Liberia.
The Deputy Minister for Planning and Development at MoA lauded the international partners for their continuous support to the sector. He said that it was about time to practicalize agriculture.
“There are lots of plans but it’s now time to make them a reality,” he said.
He stressed the need to have a seed system that will ensure that Liberia has a seed garden.
He said the government of Liberia recognizes and appreciates the work of Solidaridad and the contribution of the EU to the agricultural sector.