It was a joyous weekend for 300 members of the Dokondan Farmers’ Cooperative, who are cultivating lowland rice at the Gbendi rice project in Nimba County, when an agreement was struck between them and the management of Fabrar-Liberia to purchase their paddy rice on a long-term basis.
Based in Kakata, Margibi County, Fabrar is Liberia’s largest rice processing company.
The paddy rice purchase deal was made possible through a loan guarantee fund under the Liberia Agri-business Development Activity (LADA), a USAID funded project in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) through the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI).
LADA has a ‘guarantee fund’ in place for the facilitation of loans to enhance agricultural projects in the specific/selected value chains of rice, cassava, aquaculture, vegetables and cocoa.
Over the past several months, the MoA and LADA held discussions to resolve an ongoing issue resulting from a promise to purchase about 200 metric tons of seed rice, now paddy, from the cooperative.
“Considering your potential to produce rice, we made a commitment to you when we took over at the Ministry that we would build your capacity to produce more rice. The Ministry’s role is not to grow food but ensure the enabling environment to make you continue to farm and raise income. So, with the assistance from LADA, we secured a loan from LBDI to enable Fabrar to purchase your paddy. This makes us very grateful to the people and Government of America,” Agriculture Minister Moses Zinnah told the farmers.
Minister Zinnah said the Ministry is encouraging the private sector to work with farmers to create a sustainable agriculture sector.
“Henceforth, Fabrar will work with you in buying your rice always. We intend to make your business sustainable as you work with the commercial banks to access loans,” he added.
The Minister promised to provide the farmers with some mechanized equipment and improve the Gbendi farmers’ warehouse to standard so as to provide quality rice for the markets.
The founder and senior partner of Fabrar, Ms Jeanine Cooper, presented an initial check of L$2,000,000 to members of the Dokondan Farmers’ Cooperative as payment for an estimated 150 metric tons of their paddy rice.
“We want to promise you that all of the rice in the warehouse will be bought within the next few weeks, and we will always buy your produce. The rice will be processed for the domestic market to ensure local consumption as a way to reduce the demand for imported rice,” she stated.
The Chief of Staff and Capacity Building Manager at LADA, Zaza Mulbah, assured the cooperative of LADA’s support in building their capacity to become one of the major seed multiplication sites in the country.
“LADA is currently working on a co-investment fund application for your cooperative that will see you getting a new upgraded rice mill and a tractor to improve your production,” he said.
Also in attendance, Nimba County lawmaker Prince Tokpa lauded the farmers for their steadfastness to produce more food for the country.
“We are impressed with your good works and I am sure that your organization is about to grow as you’re beginning to gain recognition. The country depends on you to help minimize rice imports,” he said.
Rep. Tokpa called on the Government of Liberia to survey the Gbendi farmland in order to avoid people encroaching on the property, adding: “The total landscape of the Gbendi rice project is about 2,400 acres of land that requires survey.”
Jefferson Tokpa, chairman of the Dokondan farmers group said they were pleased with the development.