The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) has approved 23 farmers, agricultural producers, and agribusinesses for grant assistance under its Liberia Agriculture Commercialization Fund (LACF).
The grant is valued at US$2 million and is intended to enable smallholder farmers, agricultural producers, cooperatives, and processors to commercialize and improve productivity.
The LACF is the body that manages the matching grant component of the Rural Economic Transformation Project (RETRAP) and the Smallholder Agriculture Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P) of the Ministry of Agriculture, with support from the World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The approval of the grant for the beneficiaries was done in a recent meeting held in Monrovia.
The component of both projects supports an enabling environment that promotes the enhancement of productivity, competitiveness, and market access through alliances.
Working with the MOA through the Project Implementation Unit (PIU), the LACF ensures the effective and efficient delivery of matching grants to beneficiaries with viable and profitable business plans who also demonstrate the capacity to match the grant through assets and cash, as well as being involved with value chains or crops, including cassava, oil palm, rice, rubber, piggery, poultry, and vegetables.
According to the MoA, the grant application process evolves from the counties through a system supported by the newly recruited business development service providers responsible to screen applications for approval by the FAC.
The Deputy Minister for Economic Management at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), Augustus J. Flomo, said during the meeting that the action of reviewing the applications and approving grants for agribusinesses was an important piece of the country’s economic expansion program.
“I am particularly happy that we can hold this meeting today after all the efforts that have been employed to ensure we provide the best opportunities to our agricultural sector actors. We can now chart the course of structuring the needed support into an organized manner that allows for the sustained augmentation of production, improvement in livelihoods of farmers and processors and eventually, a more vibrant economy that can thrive on agriculture,” he said.
He called on the PIU and the MOA to initiate clear, transparent and sustainable communication mechanisms to assure beneficiaries and would-be beneficiaries that the activity is factual, addressing the concerns of fraud and misinformation, and guidance to attain the best outcome.
In remarks, Agriculture Minister Jeanine M. Cooper said the provision of grants to the beneficiaries will bridge the gap that exists between large-scale, and smallholder farmers, empowering them to increase productivity and be more competitive.
“Farmers in this category have always struggled with access to finance to enable them to expand their activities to desired levels. I know this because I was into cultivation and production long before becoming minister. I am glad that we have gathered here as the body that will approve the first batch of funding support for deserving farmers to strengthen their already strained efforts to make the sector a viable one that will drive our country’s economy”, she said.
Beneficiaries that were approved will receive between US$15,000 and US$200,000 each as grants to augment their production capacity and cover the cost of other agric-related expenses.
An Independent Investment Committee (IIC) forwarded 38 investment memoranda to the Fund Advisory Committee (FAC) for approval, with most applications originating from Nimba, Lofa, Margibi and Bomi Counties. However, the FAC approved only 23 of the investment memoranda and instructed that the other investment memoranda be restructured to address system-specific, not enterprise-specific challenges.
The FAC, which is the highest decision-making body for fund management, is chaired by the MFDP through Minister Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., while the Ministry of Agriculture is represented by Minister Cooper as the co-chair. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI), Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs (MOS), and the National Investment Commission (NIC) are members of the committee. Others include the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), Liberia Bankers’ Association, Liberia Business Association (LIBA), and Deloitte West Africa, which is the fund manager.