— Project M&E Team concludes assessment tour
Coffee growers in Bong, Montserrado, Bomi, Lofa and Nimba counties have expressed great enthusiasm for their participation in the EU ACP Business Friendly coffee value chain project in Liberia.
The coffee farmers said that the project had encouraged them to return to coffee production since it was introduced in the country, after some years of abandonment of the coffee sub-sector.
In Liberia, the EU ACP Business Friendly Coffee Project aims to revitalize the coffee value chain by empowering the beneficiaries to rehabilitate old coffee farms and to develop new farms. The project assists the beneficiaries with inputs and provides them with training in improved practices of coffee so that the farmers can become potential coffee producers to improve livelihoods.
The project is jointly funded by the European Union (EU) and the Organization of African Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS). It is being implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and a local partner, the Farmers Union Network of Liberia (FUNL) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture.
The project prioritizes the inclusion of mostly women and youths to provide them employment opportunities so as to improve their living conditions. Currently, it is supporting over 1,000 coffee farmers in five of the fifteen counties of Liberia.
Young coffee producers with the ACP Africa Regional Coffee Coordinator, Lawrence Attipoe.
With support from the EU, ITC introduced the project in the country in 2021, after conducting a survey to ascertain the level of participation of women and youth who were still engaged in the coffee value chain.
Coffee farmers in the country had abandoned the cultivation of coffee before due to the lack of support for production and difficulties to find an attractive market. Liberia before the civil war was a major producer and exporter of coffee on the global market.
But since the end of the war the coffee sector has been neglected. The country produced Liberica and Robusta varieties of coffee. The Liberica variety was greatly developed in the country before the war and it is indigenous to Liberia. The variety is reported to attract the world market. But its quantity is low and quality poor, something that the ITC is working on to improve in order to ensure a sustainable market. As for the Robusta coffee, its origin is the Democratic Republic of Congo but cultivated here by farmers. Liberian coffee farmers stand a better chance for a better market for the production of these coffee varieties under the project.
Since the inception of the program, the project has trained more than 1,000 farmers on the stumping and pruning of old coffee farms to improve yield, the propagation of Robusta and Liberica coffee, conducted harvest and post-harvest losses training and facilitated regional visits to coffee producing countries. The project has also established demonstration farms in three counties, Montserrado, Bomi and Bong where the farmers are taught in agroforestry technologies of coffee.
Moreover, to ensure that farmers get access to improved seedlings, the project has entered a memorandum of understanding with the Central Agriculture Research Institute in Liberia to establish a mother seed garden for the multiplication and distribution of coffee seedlings to the farmers.
The achievements of the program are seen to rejuvenate the hope of the farmers for coffee production, after some years of abandonment.
A recent assessment tour by the project monitoring and evaluation team in the project counties, farmers said they were so excited about being selected as farmers under the program.
“I got to know about this project when the ITC told us that it was here to revamp the coffee value chain and I was excited to join. And this project has given us hope for coffee farming. I want to own a coffee farm for myself and the children. I inherited an old farm from my deceased parents. We don’t have an ideal market for coffee here in Liberia, but we are encouraged that there is an attractive market out there,” said Hawa Perry, a lead woman farmer in Bomi County.
The assessment tour was intended to ascertain the level of impact the project is making on the lives of the beneficiaries.
During the tour, farmers were engaged about the seriousness of knowledge applied since they were recruited under the program and how they are preparing themselves to organize into cooperatives in their respective counties. The tour was accompanied by the Regional Coffee Coordinator for Africa, Lawrence Attipoe, who recently arrived in Liberia to engage the local implementing partner and some of the beneficiaries.
Attipoe told beneficiaries that there was an important untapped market potential for coffee and ITC works with partners to assist Liberian farmers to ensure sustainable income from their labor.
“There is a lot of money in producing coffee because every single day people consume so much coffee. More than 500 million cups of coffee are drunk every day around the world. Liberia has a very good vegetation for growing the product and the world is looking to buy what you can produce,” said Attipoe, adding that is the reason why ITC has partnered with the African and Malagasy Robusta Coffee Agency (ACRAM) to shift the landscape of coffee production and consumption in Africa. “This will encourage farmers to adopt sustainable agroforestry practices and implement innovant agricultural models,” he assured the Liberian coffee growers.
An Extension officer of the Farmers Union Network of Liberia (FUNL) assigned in Lofa County, Teddy Taylor, said that more farmers are now being recruited in his county and the farmers are working to rehabilitate old coffee farms to improve yields and also preparing to develop new farms.
“The excitement of the farmers is so great. More coffee growers are applying the knowledge to prune their farms. And many more individuals in the communities are expressing interest in the project. The farmers market for coffee here in the country is very much unstable and therefore farmers are looking for an attractive market,” he said.
Emmis Fallah Varney, national Project coordinator of the EU ACP Business Friendly Coffee Value Chain Project in Liberia said that farmers’ knowledge has increased about growing coffee in improved ways in the last two years under the program.
He told the farmers that the project is making sure that seedlings are multiplied to be distributed to them for planting in the various counties as much as possible.
Varney said that ITC is working with the FUNL to address the constraints facing the farmers.
He explained to the farmers that the project would help them to improve the productivity of their coffee farms, facilitate better organization and cooperation between them, and provide technical support for quality assurance so that they could access more attractive markets.
About the Project
The ACP Business Project is financed by the European Union aiming to support the development of the private sector in the Organization of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific. The 4 years (2021-2024) project is implemented by the International Trade Centre (UN ITC) at the micro level, working with different actors in the value chain. The coffee value chain has been targeted in 4 African countries to revamp the culture and innovate and sustainable cultural practices.
International Trade Centre (ITC) is the joint organization of the WTO and the UN fully dedicated to support the competitiveness and internationalization of micro, small and medium sized (MSMEs).
ACRAM is an international non-profit association bringing together private and public operators to promote Robusta coffees from Africa thereby improving incomes and living conditions of producers. The organization also researches and conceptualizes endogenous development models and supports African operators.