The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) have donated several power tillers and accessories to 34 agricultural cooperatives to increase farmers’ productivity in the rice and vegetable value chain.
The donation, which is a part of the UNDP’s Livelihood Enhancement program to empower farmers, seeks to support the Liberian government’s drive to enhance farm mechanization. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the beneficiaries shall also use the equipment to assist other farmers in the various farming communities to expand production.
Fatu Finda Jalloh, head of the Yapugeanma Women Farmers Cooperative in Gbarpolu County was overly excited about the donation of the power tiller to her cooperative.
“I am very happy that we as women in Gbarpolu County are empowered with machines to expand our cultivation,” Jalloh said. “This is not the first time getting such help from the Ministry and its partners. We have also received a cassava processing machine before to create processing opportunities for women in the cassava value chain.”
She added that the equipment donated to her farming organization will enable the farmers, comprising mostly women, to expand their farms.
“Using cutlasses and hoes cannot help the farmers to make larger farms to supply the market. Moreover, this type of farming is very labor and cost-intensive. But with this machine we will make bigger hectares to produce more food in the county.”
“We will also use the machine to assist other farmers in the communities to extend their production by paying a reasonable fee,” she added.
Meanwhile, Jalloh has disclosed that women farmers in the county are still faced with numerous challenges in agriculture. She named the lack of access to financial assistance, lack of storage, and processing facilities and the lack of farming equipment as some of the challenges facing women farmers.
“The women in the county are highly passionate about agriculture but they need more assistance to enable them to support their families and to supply the market with food,” she said.
The Yapugeanma Women Farmers Cooperative executive director further mentioned that the road conditions within the county are very deplorable and stressed the need for the government to think about improving the roads in the county.
“The road conditions have also posed a market challenge for the farmers. Many of the food we grow in the county end up not getting to Monrovia which is the larger market. This is causing a lot of produce to spoil and limiting the incomes of many farmers,” she said.
She added that in the county, women who are engaged in farming are finding it difficult to own farming land, despite the new land law that emphasized women’s ownership of farmlands.
Josephus Meatay, of the Yarpea Farmers Association in Nimba County, explained that the donation is something that they have long anticipated to enhance production.
“This is the first time to get such a piece of equipment. We have been yearning for such help. This machine is going to help members of our cooperative and other farmers in the communities to expand production,” he said.
Meatay said that his cooperative is into rice, cassava and vegetable production. However, he says farmers in his county are finding it very difficult to improve incomes due to the deplorable road conditions in the county.
“The issue of the lack of farm equipment and the deplorable road conditions are some of the challenges confronting our farming sector in the county. We would like for the government to provide us with more equipment and to improve the road conditions in the county,” he added.
The farm machine donation supports the government of Liberia’s farm mechanization drive to get farmers to transition from subsistence farming to commercialization. Over the period the Agriculture Ministry, through its donor-funded projects, has supported dozens of farmers’ cooperatives with different kinds of farm machines in order to improve the productivity of farmers.
More than 200 farmers’ cooperatives in the various agricultural value chains have been assisted. Also, the UNDP donated several motorbikes to some of the cooperatives to promote the Ministry of Agriculture’s extension delivery efforts.