— as Boakai Promises Improvement
Liberian farmers have underscored the need for the government to provide more support towards the agricultural sector of Liberia.
The farmers said considering the numerous challenges that still exist within the sector, there is a need for the provision of adequate incentives.
The farmers’ call comes at a time when Liberia’s new President, Joseph Nyumah Boakai, has declared agriculture as a priority.
Boakai delivered his first State of the Nation address on Monday, January 29, promising to improve agriculture. But critics have said that the President’s address didn’t provide a detailed explanation of how he is going to address challenges within the sector that he wants to focus more on.
Aside from climate change, Liberia’s agriculture is also grossly undermined by lack of or limited affordable farm inputs, limited access to finance, poor access to energy for value addition, poor road networks, and high transportation costs.
Speaking to the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview, Henry Harris, a farmer in Bong County, said that many farmers in his county are still faced with many challenges including the lack of access to extension services.
“We are on the farm and we are suffering. Our crops are spoiling due to the lack of support. We don’t have access to tools, fertilizers and seeds. We are happy to hear that this new leader has interest in agriculture,” Harris said.
He said that there is a need for the government to invest more in research and extension.
Liberia launched the new extension policy last year, but the funding required to support extension and research is not yet available.
President Boakai did not make any specific mention of addressing the issue of poor extension in his first Annual Address to the Legislature. However, he has spoken about improving extension services for farmers before.
According to Harris, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) are not helping many of the farmers in his county.
“My farm is located right near the Research Institute but we the farmers are suffering. We are hearing that the Ministry is helping some farmers but we want them to reach us too,” he said.
Harris also mentioned that the market still remains a serious constraint.
“The market is still hard as we are not maximizing our profits. The market is in need of a storage facility to preserve the vegetables we produce,” he explained.
Roseline Zokpoah, a farmer from Nimba County informed this paper that the deplorable road condition is seriously hampering the productivity of farmers in her community.
“We are encountering a lot of difficulties to take our produce to the market,” she said.
However, President Boakai has disclosed plans to improve value addition and roads in order to enhance the incomes of smallholder farmers.
His ARREST (Agriculture, Roads, Rule of Law, Education, Sanitation and Tourism) agenda spell out his priorities for the country over the next six years.
Boakai has repeately said that Liberia is endowed with abundant natural resources that can provide economic agricultural opportunities for the citizens. He however admits that while it is true that the country is blessed with the available arable land the vast portion of the land is being underutilized.
“My government is committed to harnessing the right resources and strengthening collaboration with international partners to support local farmers,” he stated.
He further mentioned that Liberia as a country is holding discussions on climate change mitigation, further emphasizing the importance of international partnerships for sustainable agricultural production and development.
Agriculture in Liberia is still being hugely supported with funding from international partners.
Boakai once served as Director for the defunct Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation and later served as a minister of agriculture before the nation’s civil war. He narrowly defeated former President George M. Weah during the November 2023 runoff election.
From January 2006 to January 2018, Boakai served as Vice President in the administration of then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a government that attracted millions of United States dollars to revamp the agricultural sector.
Though the sector is gradually transforming, the Boakai administration is expected to provide adequate support for the sector and to ensure policy enhancement in order to stimulate agricultural growth.