Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai has stressed the need for Micro-Loan programs to be initiated in the agricultural sector of the country for poor and smallholders farmers to have access to capital that would help them in their farming endeavors, which he termed as a very tedious but profitable profession.
Though he did not indicate from whence the loans should come from, be it the Central Bank, commercial banks or micro-finance institutions operating in the country, VP Boakai, who is a known ardent agriculturist, noted that financial infusion will help farmers increase production and livelihoods. “Empowering our own people will go a long way as foreign aid will not always be around. Donors and supporters will have to go elsewhere to others that have bigger needs”, he said.
He made these comments when he served as the launcher of the Economic Stability and Rapid Recovery Seed Intervention Program (ESRRSIP) at the Liberia Produce and Marketing Corporation (LPMC) compound in Gbarnga, Bong County.
Ambassador Boakai said, “I know we give micro-loans for used clothing and other things, we need to put micro-loan into agriculture because this is where our livelihood is. This sector has to make Liberia what we want it to be; the farmers just need to be supported financially, technically and logistically. We in Liberia have been fortunate that over the years our government has been intervening by subsidizing rice that is coming to this country.
The Vice President thanked the World Bank, ECOWAS, , Africa Rice and other partners for ensuring that the seeds were delivered on time, as timeliness is a major concern in agriculture. He said the seeds will bridge the gap created in the agricultural sector by the outbreak of the Ebola Virus in 2014.
VP Boakai also stressed the importance of the kinds of seeds that are brought into the country. “We might be bringing in seeds that will compete with what we have here and destroy them. The foundation seeds we are receiving should be properly managed so we can have a reliable sources of seed production, ensuring that they are unadulterated and are proper seeds for planting,” He pointed out.
He challenged the MOA to provide the farmers the needed technical assistance that will ensure that they have a good harvest at the end of the farming year.
“Without extension workers making sure that these seeds are in the hands of the rightful and needy farmers and that other preparations are made because you know agric has a lot of hurdles. It is not just taking the seeds. When you read the bible it talks about the soil and the seeds. You have to ensure that these are compatible. You've got to ensure that the farmers are knowledgeable and that knowledge comes from the MOA. You have to support them to work,” VP Boakai noted.
Providing an overview of the program, Deputy MOA boss for Technical Services, Dr. Sizi Subah, said that after the Liberian crisis, the seeds situation in the country has been in a desperate condition — a situation that has been exacerbated by the Ebola outbreak.
He said with this initiative now, the country needs to start thinking about developing its own seeds, which has already started. “We can boast that we have a seed program in place, but there is a lot to be done.”
Bong County Superintendent, Selena Mapy, said the ESRRSIP launch will be meaningless without the total involvement of all Liberian farmers. She used the occasion to challenge the farmers to take advantage of the program.
Meanwhile, the ESRRSIP is a post-Ebola agric initiative of the Ministry of Agricultural (MOA) with support from the World Bank through WAAPP. This support is focused on rice and maize. It aims at providing certified seeds for food production, especially after this turbulent Ebola period.
Through this initiative, local farmers are expected to benefit about 581 metric tons of certified seed rice, 100 metric tons of certified cowpea seeds and 79 metric tons of maize seeds. Many of these are already in the country. These certified seeds were brought from Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Togo, Burkina-Faso and Niger.
It is no secret that the EVD outbreak in the country posed huge social, economic and political challenges to the country’s development agenda, especially in the agric sector where rural farmers were greatly affected. The situation even got more complicated as a result of restrictions put in place by Government to battle the virus.
According to a brochure issued by WAAPP, extension experts from the farming communities where the outbreak was more prevalent in the country were forced to leave the fields, creating a serious challenge on agric productivity, especially in the leeward counties.
It states that the EVD’s outbreak also exacerbated hunger amongst Liberians and farmers in all parts of the country, which caused seeds distributed to farmers to be consumed thus, creating a huge gap in seeds availability for the next planting season.