Liberian cocoa farmers have stressed the important role agriculture can play in the country’s development agenda if the sector is prioritized by the government and its numerous partners. The farmers noted that the sector has the potential to make Liberia one of the emerging developing countries, with massive job creation.
The farmers, who just returned from a week-long knowledge acquiring field trip to Ghana, said Liberia has not acquired the high level economic transformation that it desires because it has neglected the agriculture sector.
Speaking at a press conference in Monrovia upon their arrival from Ghana yesterday, a representative of the group, Erastus Borkuah, said when given the desired attention, the sector, especially cocoa production, can build Liberia as it has done in Ghana.
The trip was an initiative of Wienco Liberia Limited (WLL), a leading supplier of fertilizer and other agricultural inputs which has been operating in Liberia since 2011. Though it is a business venture, the company provides farmers with essential supplies and advisory services throughout the cocoa season.
The cocoa farmers became the latest group to echo this sentiment after their week-long trip to that country where they had the opportunity to be part of the Ghana Cocoa producers’ annual festival known as the Annual General Meeting (AGM).
The AGM was organized by the Cocoa Abrabopa Association of Ghana and held at Asankragwa in the Western Region of that country.
Mr. Borkuah said what the team saw in Ghana is very great, noting that this can also be emulated here if only the Liberian government is willing to prioritize agriculture.
“What we saw in that country is unbelievable. Agriculture, especially cocoa farming is indeed the spin of the Ghanaian economy,” Mr. Borkuah said.
“Even the Bible tells us that humans learn from each other just as ‘iron sharpens iron’ so our trip was indeed rewarding. We saw things that are motivating us as cocoa farmers, but the unfortunate thing is that our leaders are not willing to do the level of investments that we saw out there.
“This trip was successful because we learned new things that we have come to apply here. The people told us that it is agriculture that built their country and I believe we can also do the same here.”
He said that they visited some farms, many of which are very large compared to farms here, and had fruitful discussions with the farmers. They also visited the Cocoa Research Center (CRC), which he called on the Liberian government to establish here.
“We need a research center where we can do some of our technical work to alleviate some of the problems we face as farmers,” he said.
“Ghana has really developed and this is because of the way they have prioritized agriculture. Cocoa farmers are building mansions in that country while we sit in abject poverty here because our government has decided to blatantly ignore the potential of agriculture.”
He said with the requisite financial and technical support farmers can do more in Liberia. “We want to follow our Ghanaian counterparts’ footprints,” he said.
“If we can just get a quarter of the support our colleagues are getting in Ghana, we farmers in this country can develop Liberia beyond recognition.”
Wienco senior agronomist, Eric Asante Antwi said the trip was the second of its kind after an initial group of farmers returned from that country a year ago.
He noted that when Wienco came to Liberia in 2011 they realized that import usage was at zero level and even now with the four years experience, it is still at this level.
“We need to take our farmers around after giving them the technical knowledge. We have levels of learning. Some believe that when they see it they can copy and some like to touch or feel it,” he said.
Mr. Antwi said that the trip was organized to share the Ghanaian experience with some of the farmers in Liberia.
“We went there and had a five day knowledge impacting experience in Ghana, especially during the AGM,” he said.
Meanwhile, cocoa farmers across the country have adopted, and many more will adopt, an initiative by Wienco Liberia Limited, which promises to see a significant upsurge in their yield.