It’s still coffee harvest season in Liberia, and the training in quality control for harvest is helping or serving as motivation for farmers like Alahaiji Sesey, who for the past years felt very reluctant about coffee production due to the neglect of the sector.
At age 73, Sesey owns 10 acres planted with Liberica coffee variety in Voinjama District, Lofa County, a major coffee region in the country.
Liberica is indigenous to Liberia and was largely exported to the world market by the country before the civil war.
Sesey is highly motivated about knowledge of coffee production. But he and many other coffee farmers in Liberia abandoned the sector before due to the lack of support for production and market.
However, with the introduction of the ACP (African , Caribbean and Pacific countries) Business Friendly Coffee Project in Liberia, many of the farmers have been encouraged about coffee farming and seem hopeful to sustain their families.
The project is implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and its local partner, the Farmers Union Network of Liberia with support from the European Union.
To further improve the quality of harvests and attract potential buyers, the project is currently conducting a weeklong training workshop in Lofa and Nimba counties respectively. The workshop brings together more than one hundred participants comprising farmers and extension workers from Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties.
A group of coffee farmers at the workshop
“I’m happy once more to be a part of a training workshop,” Sesey said. “The knowledge of quality control for coffee harvest is helping me greatly. Thus, due to the knowledge applied this harvest season, I am anticipating better prices for my harvest.”
Sasey mentioned that he currently has in his warehouse 13 giant size bags of coffee beans ready for sale and he still has some areas to harvest.
“Due to the knowledge acquired, I no longer destroy the coffee beans on the tree while harvesting. I rightly pick the ripe cherries and get them processed in the appropriate way ready for the market. Thanks to the ITC through the partners,” he said.
However, marketing of the coffee still remains a challenge for the farmers.
“We still look to the ITC to send us potential buyers,” the farmer stated.
ITC hired Ephrem Sebatigita, a coffee expert from Burundi, to train the farmers in quality control for coffee harvest.
The program was launched in 2021 and more than 1,000 farmers and a few extension workers were trained in coffee propagation, harvest and post-harvest management practices of coffee production, as well as pruning of old coffee farms to improve yield.
Today, the farmers are rehabilitating their old coffee farms to improve yield. Most farms are more than 50 years old.
ITC has also made provision for inputs such as tools to assist the farmers manage their respective coffee farms. The project has established demo sites in Bong, Montserrado and Bomi counties to teach the farmers in coffee agroforestry.
Additionally, a mother garden has also been established at the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) to multiply seedlings for distribution to the farmers.
As part of an effort to make the coffee project successful in Liberia, the ITC sponsored trips for stakeholders to travel to some African countries and Europe to give them more exposure about the coffee industry.
Meanwhile, some leaders of the coffee cooperatives said, farmers want to see Liberian coffee back on the global market.
“We hope the country can get involved in exports again,” said Johnson F.T. Boie, chairman Saapia Coffee Farmers Cooperative. “But our major challenge is the issue of potential buyers. We don’t need to continue to sell our coffee to neighboring countries and get very little profits. We want to export coffee and be known for it as a nation.”