Sweden has provided Liberia a US$7.2 million for the launch of the GROW-2 agriculture program, which is aimed at developing sustainable agro-based value chain enterprises.
The program, expected to last for five years, will be implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) following its launch on September 19. With a focus on nutritious value chains and businesses, the Swedish-funded agriculture program will prioritize cocoa, horticulture, and cassava value chains, especially interventions designed to enhance output, productivity, and value addition in response to market demand.
The project, according to its implementer, constitutes the successor phase of the SIDA-funded "Markets and Value Chains in Agriculture" (GROW Liberia, 2013–2022), hereafter referred to as GROW-1.
Capitalizing on the results and lessons of GROW-1, the initiative seeks to also focus on scaling up prior efforts and expanding sectoral and thematic outreach.
Speaking at the launch, Charles Sackey, GROW-2 Chief Technical Advisor, and Dan Kiamue Johnson, National Value Chain expert field expert on GROW-2, revealed that the main objective of the program is to enhance production, diversify, and promote local value addition.
The program, according to the two experts, will facilitate market access and thus generate employment opportunities for farmers residing in poverty-stricken localities within the selected value chain, allowing the project's growth to match the donor's counterpart budget and duration.
The duo explained that the project will also focus on poor farmers, increasing engagement with men, women, and youth.
According to them, the implementation strategy will be characterized by the market system development approach, which emphasizes the importance of flexibility in adapting interventions to the particular constraints and opportunities that may develop in different value chain sectors.
"The program will also focus on achieving and maintaining gender equality and empowering women. Youth economic empowerment and entrepreneurship will also receive particular focus,” they explained.
However, in addition to the overview, Sackey said that, due to financial constraints and a lack of technical knowledge, smallholder farmers rely mostly on primitive tools and little equipment to increase domestic, regional, and global market assets as well as domestic value-adding opportunities. He added, "Improved production and value addition in the case of horticulture and the Cassava Chain may help alleviate some of the issues that threaten food security in the Liberia value chain.”
"The GROW project will prioritize and focus on horticulture and cassava value chains, with a specific focus on interventions designed to enhance output productivity and value addition in response to market demand," he asserted.
Also, Fabio Russo, Chief, SME for Development and Job Creation at UNIDO, who served as co-launcher, told the gathering that the project is a new addition to a number of initiatives of UNIDO in Liberia. "So, at the basis of our approach now in GROW-2, we are really stressing the importance of building trust among the farmers, the processors, and the exporters, while strengthening the cooperatives, bringing them together, and trying to use as much as possible local resources, which is at the basis of the market system development approach,” Russo said.
“And for us, this is fundamental to ensuring sustainability because, at the end, we want to see growth. Whatever we have done, whatever we have, the other methodologies will continue to be put in place, expanded, and even transferred to other sectors,” he said.
Marcus Teto, who proxied for the Minister of Agriculture, Madame Jeanine Cooper, as chief launcher, expressed gratitude on behalf of the government for the continued support of the Embassy of Sweden and UNIDO to support the certification and export of cocoa to other countries.
"The Ministry of Agriculture has been pushing for farmers to earn an income, and because of its importance, we have emphasized cocoa. We appreciate the Grow-2 project and officially launch this project on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture," Teto added.
For his part, Deputy Swedish Head of Mission, Development Cooperation, Johan Romare, said the program is aligned with Liberia’s strategic development priorities and with Sweden’s cooperation strategy with Liberia. "The benefit is to everybody, but thanks in particular to the Swedish Embassy and my colleague Christian, with whom we have developed this project," he said. He urged UNIDO to focus on the market aspect, the addition of value, and the addition of products.