The small-scale oil palm sector is currently providing economic opportunity for many Liberians. Because of the existing market for oil palm, it is observed that many of the citizens are venturing into this sector for employment opportunities. However, small farmers who are producers lack improved processing opportunities.
Paul Galama, a small scale oil palm farmer in Zorzor District, Lofa County, says that with the provision of a motorized engine oil palm processing machine received from the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), his processing capacity has improved.
Prior to getting his motorized engine, Galama used what is referred to as the Freedom Mill, a manual and traditional method that extracts very little oil from the palm fruits.
Oil palm production is one of Liberia’s emerging export opportunities, but there are many challenges associated with it, particularly in the small-scale oil palm sector. However, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) is now working to address the challenges of marketing oil palm through its grant program.
Though Galama is not yet one of the grantees, he was fortunate to get input assistance under the Smallholder Transformation Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P). STAR-P is a World Bank and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) funded project at the MOA.
Galama explained to the Daily Observer recently in an exclusive interview on his farm, located 45 minutes away from Zorzor City, that his farming business is getting better gradually thanks to the motorized engine oil palm machine donated to him by the Ministry.
“The new machine has upgraded my processing capacity greatly. Before, I couldn’t process even six drums of palm. It was very difficult, as I was using the manual machine. The workers would complain of being tired and demand an increase in pay. But with the provision of this motorized engine machine, we can process nearly 12-16 drums on a daily basis. This has helped to improve my income generation,” he said.
Galama explained that there are more producers who are lacking processing opportunities in the villages and are now depending on his facility.
According to him, there is no processing center located in the area where many of the residents are producing oil palm for income.
“There are several villages where oil palm is being produced. Some people are taking advantage of this facility. But others are finding it difficult to get their palms here for processing,” he said.
Galama expressed the need for additional assistance from the Ministry so as to make oil palm production more profitable in his community and the surrounding villages.
“We heard about the grant program at the ministry, and we started the process. But since then, we have gotten no fruitful response. We would like for the Ministry to assist us in addressing some of our challenges,” he explained.
He said that he is now working to purchase a minitruck to transport the oil palm produce to the facility.
Galama entered the farming business in Zorzor after realizing that agriculture was a profitable venture. He said that the government will need to improve the market for oil palm so that more Liberians can find employment in the small-scale oil palm sector.