The ability to add value to farm produce has been a challenge for many smallholder farmers, resulting in failure to increase their respective incomes.
Agro-entrepreneurs such as processors and agro-dealers, who sell fertilizer and seeds for planting, are creating an opportunity for these smallholder farmers.
Liberia Agribusiness Development Activity (LADA) in collaboration with authorities at the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) has intervened to ensure that there is an opportunity to increase the incomes of smallholder farmers.
The two groups have partnered to increase the technical capacity of agro processing cooperatives by providing processing machines. The equipment should result in better and increased output of fish meal and cassava. The agro processing cooperative will provide the market for smallholder farmers.
The MoA has provided the equipment, and LADA refurbished the machines, qualified and trained the beneficiaries to ensure the businesses will use the machines effectively.
In total, 15 fish meal and 15 cassava machines were distributed to beneficiaries in LADA’s catchment counties of Montserrado, Bong, Nimba and Lofa.
At one of the equipment delivery sites in Suakoko, Bong County on Wednesday, March 29, Deputy Minister of Agriculture in the Department of Regional Development Research and Extension, Thomas Gbokie, described the exercise to empower local processors as an important initiative the ministry and LADA have undertaken.
Gbokie said that the ministry in collaboration with LADA intends to increase processing opportunities for smallholder farmers to improve their income generation.
“We are pleased to empower processors to enable them to raise incomes and create processing opportunities for farmers in the nearby farming communities,” he said.
Minister Gbokie stressed the need for many of the youth to engage into agricultural ventures to become food self-sufficient.
“I am glad to find out that beneficiaries of this exercise are also young people who the ministry wants to see involved in agriculture as a meaningful venture,” he said.
LADA’s Chief of Party, Daniel Gies, said his NGO is building the capacity of processors to put money into the pockets of local farmers.
He added that such a strategy could sustain Liberia’s food production to change the lives of smallholder farmers.
Mr. Gies said under the LADA project, the capacity of more processors is to be built.
USAID Mission in Liberia, Dr. Samba Kawa, said that the Mission is working closely with LADA to ensure that Liberian farmers have the opportunity to grow more food and to improve the living conditions of their families.
“It is a privilege for the partners on such a unique arrangement that aims at creating more income opportunity for farmers. The Mission shall always remain supportive to the enhancement of food production in Liberia, he said.
Philip Nimwillay, the youth leader of the Calvary Youth Empowerment Initiative in Suakoko, said that his group was engaged in cassava processing to raise income to underwrite the cost of education for their members.
“With this donated equipment, we can assure you that it will be used to raise income for the organization and to ensure processing opportunities for farmers in the nearby villages,” he said.
Bong County Agriculture Coordinator, Monica Honore, cautioned the beneficiaries to make proper use of the equipment to better their lives.
“We are going to thoroughly monitor the use of this equipment to ensure that it is fully maintained. When we discover that that equipment is not being used by any organization, we will retrieve it and then give it to those in need,” she warned the beneficiaries.
Musu Kardamie, head for the Concerned Women for Development in Ganta, Nimba County, lauded the MoA and LADA for empowering women in the agriculture sector.
“We are grateful to the MoA and LADA for supporting women’s initiative in the county, for which we will use the machine to raise income and create processing opportunities for farmers in the nearby communities,” Mrs. Kardamie assured.
The Youth leader of Keledu Youth for Peace and Development in Foya District, Lofa County Christopher Tegbeh said: “This is a great opportunity for young people and farmers in our district. We have never had this opportunity to process cassava. So we always sell the raw cassava and realize little income. With this equipment, we are going to mobilize our colleagues and women to take advantage of the opportunity by growing more cassava in the various farming communities for processing.
The Commissioner of Foyah District, Joseph Tamba Gbollie, described the empowerment of farmers in his district as a significant contribution by LADA and the MoA.
“Our district is mainly engaged in the production of rice, so getting a cassava machine is an added advantage for the citizens, mainly the youth and women. We applaud LADA greatly, especially for the opportunity to provide us an industrial rice machine soon that will overcome the challenge for the market”, he stated.