Unlike many of their counterparts in other areas of the country, especially Lofa and Grand Cape Mount counties, members of the Dokodan Farmers’ Cooperative (DFC) in Gbedin, Nimba will not just have a reason to smile, but with excitement and fulfillment as well as financial rewards after months of hard labor.
The West Africa Agriculture Productivity Project (WAAPP) has assured DFC that the 250 metric tons of seed rice they have produced will be purchased. The Coordinator of WAAPP, Cyrus Sargbe, said the Project is ready to purchase the rice for distribution to farmers in other parts of the country for planting.
Sargbe made the disclosure on Tuesday when a team of World Bank and WECARD officials who are visiting the country paid a one day visit to Gbedin to assess the level of work being done there. The Gbedin project is known as the Certified Seed Multiplication Project that is being sponsored by the World Bank. Members of the visiting team were the program manager of CORAF/WECARD Dr. Nieyidou Lamien, and the World Bank consultant based in Abidjan, Joseph Nkah
The Gbedin Certified Seed Multiplication project falls under the government of Liberia and the World Bank post Ebola seed intervention intended to help farmers in the country after the devastating effects of the deadly virus that affected every sector of the Liberian society. It is being implemented by WAAPP through Africa Rice and CARI with the DFC.
The variety of seed being produced is known as Nerica L-19 and was grown on a 164 hectare of lowland in Gbedin.
Members of the visiting team interacting with the farmers asked them about the challenges they face and what prospects they have for the future. The farmers responded that the major challenge they face is finding markets or buyers for their produce. They also emphasized the need for farming equipment to improve their work.
The DFC members said that although the rice has been produced many of them are currently in financial crisis and seeking means to settle their debts, but there is no way out. They however appealed for help to find buyers for their produce.
Dr. Nkah then asked the WAAPP Coordinator whether he was prepared to assist the farmers. Mr. Sargbe responded, “We will buy all of the rice because we need to distribute it to other farmers across the country for planting. We already told them that and they are aware. It is just that these arrangements require some formalities after which all the rice will be purchased and distributed across the country.” This, he said, will be done in collaboration with one of the partners, Africa Rice, that works directly with the farmers as one of WAAPP’s project implementing partners in the country.
Sargbe however called on the farmers to ensure that all of the rice is properly bagged within two weeks so that it can be picked up and transported to the Liberia Produce and Marketing Company (LPMC) warehouses in Gbarnga, Bong County.
DFC president, Jefferson N. Tokpah, welcomed the news, which he termed as a relief for him and his colleagues and lauded WAAPP and its partners for their continued support to the farmers.
“First of all I want to be thankful to the government, the World Bank, Africa Rice and CARI for the level of support that is being given us,” he said.
Providing a backing ground about the project, Tokpah said, “In 2015 Africa Rice came to us and told us that they wanted us to produce foundation seed and we agreed because we have been in that business before.”
He indicated that DFC successfully cultivated 164 hectares, “and as I speak to you we have not less than 250 metric tons of foundation seed in our warehouse as you can see.
“We will turn the rice over to our partners because we produce the rice and give it to them to find the market for us. They bring buyers to purchase our produce. This rice will be distributed to our fellow farmers in other counties for planting,” he explained.
“The rice you see in stock now has not been paid for and there are 197 farmers who produced this rice, so we need money so that they too, can attend to their domestic obligations, especially their children’s schooling and welfare,”
He noted that Nerica L-19 is unique because it is a variety that takes only ninety days duration (3 months) to be harvested, meaning that it could be planted three times in a given year. This makes it more economical, especially for farmers when it comes to marketing.
He also said that the Cooperative is in need of agro equipment, making specific reference to power tillers and tractors. In the absence of these equipments, you will find out that farmers will never have mass production.
He noted that Liberians have the capability to become food sufficient if only local farmers are adequately empowered and motivated to work more.
The Cooperative president said he and his colleagues are proud to be part of such a worthy endeavor which aimed at making Liberia food sufficient.
Members of the visiting team, Dr. Lamien and Mr. Nkah, expressed their happiness at the level of work that WAAPP is doing in Liberia, especially in Gbedin. They however called on the government to give agriculture more attention as it has the potential for employment and economic growth.
DFC was founded in 1972 and was one of the largest agro cooperatives in the country prior to the Liberian war. It became dormant, as expected, after the war, but was revitalized with the assistance of WAAPP and Africa Rice a few years ago. The cooperative has 250 members-60 percent male and 40 percent female.