The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), through the Funds Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Liberia Agriculture Commercialization Funds (LACF), has approved additional 24 investment memoranda (IM) to benefit agriculture sector actors of its matching grant scheme. The Scheme seeks to empower farmers, producers, processors, and others involved with value addition, packaging, and the transportation of agricultural products.
The latest approvals bring the total number of beneficiaries that have been approved to sixty-seven (67), with a value of more than US$ 6.5 million dollars after six FAC sittings between August 2022 and March 2023. Beneficiaries that were approved during the first, second and third sittings have already received all or portions of their funds and are utilising them to increase their productivity and income.
Some beneficiaries have acquired more efficient processing equipment for palm oil, rice, cassava and vegetables. They have also acquired assets such as motorbikes, trucks and other vehicles, earth moving machines such as tractors and power tiller and storage facilities. Other beneficiaries have used their funds to acquire additional land that will allow them to cultivate larger farms and purchase raw products for processing or value addition.
The MOA implements this through the Rural Economic Transformation Project (RETRAP), and the Smallholder Agriculture Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P) funded by the World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Agriculture Minister Jeanine M. Cooper at the 5th FAC sitting held recently in Monrovia disclosed that the activity was to ensure that people in the sector get the required support to be able to earn money and eventually boost the economy.
“We are doing this because we, the national government through the MOA and our development partners, have agreed that agribusiness is the way to go if we are going to develop the sector. We must graduate from just providing tools and inputs for gardens and small farms to delivering hard capital and mechanisation that will drive the sector,” she said.
She also called for accountability regarding prior disbursements and a strong M&E system that will ensure the funds are properly utilised by the beneficiaries.
The FAC also approved new focus areas for the LACF matching grant. They include seed and feed production, organic fertiliser production, mechanisation services, payment systems, marketing and branding, trade and commodity exchange (including warehouses and storage facilities), irrigation systems, and greenhouses for vegetable production and biofuel.
Deputy Minister for Economic Management of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) Augustus Flomo who chairs the FAC called for setting a monthly target for qualifying business plans to speed up the process and benefit more qualified applicants.
“Because we want to get the needed support to our beneficiaries in time, let us set a target that will allow us to review and approve qualified applicants each month. People need these supports, we should speed up the process of how they get them,” he said.
It can be recalled that between August and November 2022, the FAC approved 43 applications valued at more than 3.8 million dollars that benefited agric-sector actors in 13 of the 15 counties. Farmers and processors in the other two counties of Rivercess and River Gee currently benefit from direct farming inputs, while the MOA is working out modalities of full implementation of the projects in both counties.
The FAC, which is the highest decision-making body for the Fund Management, is chaired by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) through its Minister Hon. Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., while the Ministry of Agriculture represented by Minister Jeanine M. Cooper is the co-chair. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MCI), Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs (MOS) and the National Investment Commission 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.