Vice President Joseph N. Boakai has said that Liberians must hold both the Government and development partners accountable if the huge sums of money spent in the agriculture sector do not improve the livelihood of Liberians.
He made the statement Tuesday in his keynote speech at the opening of the 2016 Liberia Agribusiness Exposition held at the Monrovia City Hall in Sinkor under the theme: ‘Building A Food Secure Future in Liberia.’
Veep Boakai encouraged a stronger framework for collaboration and agreed scorecard for mutual accountability to judge the results of the implementation of huge investments in various programs and projects by the government, development partners and non-governmental organizations.
He welcomed private sector participation in policy formulation to ensure that everyone has a stake in agricultural enterprise development because, according to him, the government will place more emphasis on designing innovative financing mechanisms for the agriculture sector.
“This will include small and medium-sized enterprise agricultural financing mechanisms, such as incentive based risk sharing facilities for agricultural lending and social impact bond,” he said.
Veep Boakai said overall, the estimated rate of post–harvest losses in Liberia is approximately 35 to 40 percent, which are caused by improper rice processing, poor storage practices and transport constraints.
“Reducing post-harvest losses, strengthening value addition, establishing structured markets and marketing systems can all contribute to sustainable food security.
“If post-harvest losses can be reduced to a more reasonable level, other aspects of value addition processing, storage, packaging, preservation and market linkages can be enhanced,” VP Boakai said.”
He disclosed that as part of the government’s agenda to improve food security in the country, budgetary allotment to the agriculture sector has been increased from US$3 million to a proposed US$9.5 million, which would attract momentum from development partners.
“Unlike previous years, allocation to the sector has jumped over 100 percent in the 2016/17 National Budget, indicating government’s preparedness to transform the sector and renewed upward financial support to the agriculture sector,” he said.
According to him, despite the impact of the long years of civil war, the drop in the global prices of the country’s traditional revenue generating commodities and the Ebola outbreak, the government is still showing more interest in the agriculture sector.
The Vice President thanked the USAID Food and Enterprise Development (FED) program for working with over 90,000 local farmers, many of whom have testified to the level of transformation as a result of the project.
USAID FED Deputy Chief of Party Boima Bafaie stated that the USAID Feed the Future US$75 million, 5-year program has supported 90,000 farmers in the country and improved their income in four value chains.
Mr. Bafaie explained that while FED is leaving the country, the Liberia Agribusiness Development Activity (LADA) will take over to continue the program in Liberia.
“Build on that great work FED started with you because this program was not meant to last forever but to impact your lives and improve the agriculture sector through our contribution,” he stated.
The project, according to him, closes this year with almost all of the US$75m already spent on projects like warehouses, science labs, among others in the food value chains, including rice, cassava, vegetables and goat rearing.
The program also established a national diploma in agriculture program by the creation of Centers of Excellence at the Booker Washington Institute as well as at community colleges in Lofa, Nimba and Grand Bassa counties.
With the new method and techniques employed, he said, farmers’ annual yields have increased with value added to them.
USAID FED is a “Feed the Future” initiative of US President Barack Obama’s administration, intended to ensure food security in 19 countries around the globe, 12 of which are in Africa.