Some beneficiaries of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) have complained over the high transportation cost they have to underwrite to get farm equipment from Monrovia to their respective farming communities and the delays they experience to access the remaining equipment promised to them by the MoA.
Additionally, the beneficiaries have complained that equipment received from the MoA are yet to be installed due to lack of funding.
They are appealing to the Ministry to fast-track the delivery of equipment promised to them and to ensure that the MoA provides the necessary assistance to get equipment installed as soon as possible to enable them to enhance production.
“It costs US$1,000 to transport a rice mill to our farm. The mill, which was received in Monrovia, is yet to be installed because we don’t have the funds to do it. We still have a rice sorter to get from the Ministry,” Abacus Jallah, a farmer from Kolahun district, Lofa County, told the Daily Observer via a mobile phone interview.
Jallah is the head of a farming cooperative in the district. He said while his cooperative is appreciative to the government through the MoA for the assistance, the process to get the equipment from Monrovia to his farming community is a problem for them.
“We’re struggling to survive in agriculture. The Ministry should have a better way to get farming inputs to us in the communities. I expect to get to Monrovia to follow up on the rice sorter, but the road conditions may not allow us to deliver it to the community,” Jallah explained.
Jallah said his cooperative has more than 200 members and they are still recruiting additional people. But, according to him, the lack of a warehouse is one of the challenges faced by the cooperative as they don’t even have a place for the rice mill recently donated by the Ministry.
“We don’t have a warehouse to store the machine. We expect to benefit from a grant provided by the Ministry. Once we get that money, we shall work to construct a warehouse,” he told the Observer.
Another farmer, James Nyumah, in Bong Mines, Bong County, reported that he is yet to operate the rice mill given to him. Having also received the mill, Nyumah said it cost him close to US$700 to transport the equipment to his farming community.
According to him, he is yet to get the generator from the Ministry to power up the rice mill.
“Since I got the mill from the Ministry, I am yet to operate it. I have built a mini warehouse in the community where I am using a very small mill,” he explained.
Meanwhile, officials at the Ministry have refuted the claims by the beneficiaries that they themselves were transporting equipment from Monrovia and having them installed. The Ministry has also said that they are not aware of remaining equipment promised for beneficiaries at the Ministry.
The Deputy Agriculture Minister for Regional Development Research and Extension, Dr. George Tee Forpoh, once told the Daily Observer that the Ministry has never requested beneficiaries to take the responsibility to transport and install equipment.
Ernest Clarke, Deputy Minister for Administration at the Ministry, who was recently contacted, said that they have delivered dozens of farming materials to beneficiaries.
According to him, the Ministry is currently obligated to the delivery of farming machines, mainly to beneficiaries in the Southeast.
Clarke stated in the next few days they are expected to reach out to beneficiaries in the southeast with equipment.
“We don’t know about any equipment being kept here at the Ministry for those who are raising the concerns. It is also not true that our beneficiaries are taking the responsibility to deliver and install equipment. It is the Ministry that is carrying out the process,” he mentioned.
“There are just a lot of things that the Ministry is doing in agriculture that the public doesn’t know. Many of the beneficiaries have been assisted under various projects at the Ministry,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the President of the Farmer Union Network of Liberia, Josephine Francis, could not confirm the assistance rendered by the MoA to the beneficiaries.
She said though she is not knowledgeable about the situation, it was the responsibility of the Ministry to deliver equipment in farming communities and have them installed.
“You will have to put the equipment in the truck and deliver it to the farming communities and get them installed. This is how I know about dealing with such issues in agriculture,” she said.
Madam Francis, who is a former lawmaker, said that the Ministry needs to collaborate with the Union in vetting and assisting beneficiaries.
According to her, the Ministry must ensure that the role of our organization is fully recognized at all times.
“This is the role of the Farmer Union in working with the Ministry and the various actors in the sector,” she said.
The Farmer Union president said that there is a need for the Ministry to ensure monitoring and evaluation of its work in the sector to bring about transformation.
According to the beneficiaries, the equipment in question is under the COVID-19 emergency assistance to farmers and other members of the agricultural value chain.
About 5.5 million United States dollars was allocated and expended as COVID emergency funds to assist farmers and processors under the Smallholder Transformation Agriculture and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P) supported by the World Bank and IFAD.
Some of the farm machines and inputs delivered to the beneficiaries are rice mills, threshers, de-stoners, power tillers, and fertilizers, among others.