.... The small-scale oil palm sector of Liberia is critical for jobs creation and the improvement of the country’s food security. But, many smallholder oil palm farmers and processors are still lacking or have limited access to support to increase in productivity.
Jeff Boakai and his wife Mary now own an industrial mini oil palm facility in Foyah District, Lofa County to supply the market.
The couple began their dream for agriculture in 1990 when the Liberian civil war just started. With a little knowledge of agriculture skills and finance, they ventured into oil palm production for livelihood income using traditional practices.
Though their journey, like other smallholder farmers in the sector, was prolonged with many days of struggle to expand production with little resources, after a decade of staying in agriculture, the story of Jeff and his family as small scale oil palm farmers has changed.
The small-scale oil palm sector of Liberia is critical for jobs creation and the improvement of the country’s food security. But, many smallholder oil palm farmers and processors are still lacking or having limited access to support to increase in productivity.
Jeff told the Daily Observer that the process of becoming a small-scale oil palm farmer in his district is like a dream come true.
“I started as an oil palm farmer in 1990 during the war. I grew the crop and processed the oil manually. It wasn’t until in 2004 [that] I started receiving support from WinRock to process the palm, but with a little capacity. A year ago, I was fortunate to obtain support from Solidaridad Liberia to become a mini Industrial oil palm processor,” Jeff narrated.
Solidaridad Liberia has upgraded the processing capacity of Jeff with an oil palm mill that has the capacity to produce 2 tons of oil per hour. With this industrial facility, his factory has opened a great door for several smallholder oil palm producers when it comes to market access.
According to him, the mill was procured through a cost share arrangement with Solidaridad Liberia. “My cost share was to construct the facility that housed the mill,” he explained.
Oil palm production is being done in Liberia by small scale farmers and concessionaires. The oil palm sector is earmarked for its great potential to overcome food insecurity and to reduce poverty as inscribed in the Liberian government’s development agenda.
Notwithstanding support for the oil palm sector, mainly small scale farmers largely derive from International partners.
Jeff and Mary Boakai’s small-scale oil palm enterprise has immensely benefited from other international support over the years. Besides assistance from Solidaridad Liberia, the Government of Liberia through the World Bank and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) recently provided grants to the company to address some of the challenges associated with the facility.
According to Mary, the company received the amount of US$96,000 to procure some other materials. The money, she said, was used to purchase a tractor and a vehicle to transport the raw produce from the farmers to the factory.
The grant was provided through Liberia Agriculture Commercialization Fund (LACF), a component of the Smallholder Agriculture Transformation Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P). Jeff and several other small-scale farmers benefited from the grant.
Meanwhile, Jeff reported that he needs working capital to enable him to buy the palm fruit from the smallholder farmers within the community.
“This factory is going to help to employ many people. We will be recruiting more aggregators to buy the fruit. I will be overwhelmed if the farmers really decide to provide me with the fruits. Currently, we have 10 workers and we are thinking about having more individuals work here,” he disclosed.