Vegetable farmers in Liberia face many challenges when it comes to growing vegetables. Due to torrential rain fall in almost all parts of the country, vegetables usually don’t grow well. In fact, few farmers grow vegetables for commercial purpose during rainy season.
The majority of the farmers who grow vegetables during the rains are subsistence farmers who do so alongside their rice crops, for home consumption and surplus for the local markets.
A group of vegetable farmers comprising of 20 persons on the outskirt of Monrovia, known as the Mawah Vegetable Farmers Association, has gotten the opportunity to produce vegetables all year round through the practice of protected cultivation (rain shelter) for improved yields and increased profits.
Together, the vegetable farmers and the Food and Enterprise Development Program (FED) of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) put an area of the farm under protected cultivation in order to grow quality crops, particularly during the rainy season. The greenhouse-like structure helps farmers protect valuable produce from pests and heavy rain damage. At the same time, it is equipped with drip irrigation which provides sufficient moisture to the crops during the dry season.
In Liberia very few farmers are engaged in such practice of producing vegetables. FED /USAID is currently assisting 20 farming groups to benefit from this improved technology.
The Mawah Vegetable Farmers Association was established in 1997 to supply vegetables on the local market. After receiving assistance from Chinese agriculture experts, the group got involved in producing high-value exotic vegetables, like tomatoes. But this effort did not last for a long period of time as the Chinese experts left the country.
In 2013, the vegetable farmers began partnering with USAID FED to boost production and marketing of their vegetables. The program introduced high quality seeds and fertilizers, and provided training in good agricultural practices as well as market linkages for their produce.
“It is interesting to grow vegetables under the green house. Currently, we have sowed tomato and cabbage seeds that will give us more money when taken to the supermarkets,” says Alexander Moah, lead farmer of the Mawah Vegetable Farmers Association.
Moah said funds generated from the sale of vegetables produced from the green house will go towards empowering members of the organization to expand their individual farms.
Though the growing of vegetables under the Green House is interesting to the local vegetable farmers, marketing was another challenge faced by the farmers until the intervention of USAID FED.
Prices are not standardized, and farmers feel cheated by traders in Liberia, especially during the rainy season when there is a surplus of vegetables on the market. But the Mawah farmers have learned something about cultivating vegetables for the local market. At first, the group planted mainly indigenous vegetables, realizing small profits. After planting exotic vegetables, the group saw demand as well as their profits rise.
“Planting pepper and bitter ball will not give us all of the profit we need, except during the dry season when vegetables supply is low and prices are more attractive,” says Martha Flomo, a member of the Mawah group.
“Through the assistance of FED /USAID in linking us with the various supermarkets in Monrovia, our earnings from the sale of vegetables have increased by 85 percent,” Moah disclosed