The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has made a significant impact on farmers in Bong County by empowering 200 local farmers through the establishment and support of farming cooperatives under the Integrated Food Security Project (IFSP).
Under the project, there are the WFP Rice livelihood project site in Salala, an ongoing warehouse construction site in Totota, the WFP Livelihood Activity Site in Sargent Kollie Town (SKT), and the War Affected Women Rice and Vegetable Farm and Storage Site in Melekie. These are mostly women-driven initiatives.
On November 25, 2023, WFP Country Director, Dr. Aliou Diongue, along with implementing partner BRAC Liberia and Minister of Agriculture, Jeanine M. Cooper, conducted a full-day field tour to WFP-supported farming communities in the County.
Sawo M. Coneh, Chairperson of the Yalafomah Farmers Group, shared how the project has brought about significant positive changes to their farm. Through WFP and BRAC Liberia's support, the farmers have expanded their farming activities from a few hectares to almost 200 hectares; she disclosed.
Coneh called for increased support from the government and the partnering organizations to meet the growing needs of the farmers and ensure more food production for local schools. “We want to appeal to you to increase your support to us so we can be able to produce more food and supply the government schools that are here.”
She expressed gratitude to WFP, BRAC, and the Ministry of Agriculture for their visit and support.
The purpose of the November 25 tour, authorities said, was to showcase WFP's contribution to combating food insecurity in Liberia and highlight their efforts in creating sustainable livelihoods for local farmers.
Diongue, WFP Country Director, said that the visit showcased the tangible impact of WFP and BRAC’s work in empowering women, supporting communities, and addressing food insecurity—emphasizing WFP’s commitment to expanding support and training for farmers with the provision of additional funding expected soon.
“This is just a part of some things we are doing,” he said, “But we really working with other communities and also for those communities that have very good results, all of them, I can say, to expand it because we expecting to get more funding from WFP so we can provide more support. We also want to provide more training and provide materials to those farmers because they are doing really good.”
“When we look at those communities that we have visited this morning, it already has an impact on food security; it has an impact because they are creating the market in the communities which are the schools,” he said
Diongue also disclosed that the farmers are giving the food that they are growing to the schools and supporting them in providing them some training and giving them fruitful access and money and they can use it for the education of the children and support the nutrition aspect of the program.
He commended the Minister of Agriculture for the smooth working relationship over the course of the project. He disclosed that the community-driven initiatives have already made a positive impact on food security by creating local markets, particularly in schools.
Minister Cooper acknowledged the challenges faced by farmers and applauded the efforts made by WFP and BRAC in understanding their needs and working together to overcome these challenges. She lauded the farmers for being hardworking.
“I am very proud of our Liberian farmers and particularly our women who are going out there by helping us to realize the need to feed ourselves,” she said, “We know it is possible, we heard you, WFP has heard you but I personally have heard you.
She noted that the Ministry has provided support through various programs, including cash for work and distributing supplies and planting materials. “The ministry is also working to procure necessary equipment to aid farmers during the harvesting process,” she said. “The Ministry has been supporting many communities and farmers groups and we will make sure of at least some things you are asking for in terms of the machinery equipment supplies you will get them.”
Minister Cooper emphasized the importance of collaboration between the government and organizations like the WFP in achieving food security in Liberia. She commended WFP for going beyond humanitarian assistance and food aid and supporting initiatives, such as the Home Growing School Feeding Program.
The partnership between the Ministry of Agriculture and WFP has been excellent, and she believes that by working together, food security can be achieved in Liberia. She said the efforts of WFP, BRAC Liberia, and the Ministry of Agriculture in empowering local farmers in Bong County have been commendable.
Cooper expressed appreciation to WFP and BRAC for their partnership in supporting agricultural projects.
The support provided has brought positive changes to the farmers’ lives and contributed to addressing food insecurity in the region, beneficiaries have said. Continued collaboration and investment in agriculture are crucial to achieving long-term food security in Liberia, they said.