Liberia: Youth Entrepreneur Wants Govt. Strengthen NDA Program
A youth entrepreneur, Kangoma Turay, who is the CEO of Agrolite, has called on the Liberian government to strengthen the National Diploma for Agriculture (NDA) program to make it more effective.
The NDA is a skills-focused two-year vocational diploma that prepares high school graduates to move directly into agricultural employment in the formal sector or through entrepreneurship. It leads students into a practical training program through demonstration farms, extension services, and the showcasing of best practices and innovations in agri-businesses.
The program was rolled out in 2015 at four Centers of Excellence, including the Lofa Community College, Grand Bassa Community College, Nimba Community College as well as the Booker Washington Institute. It was implemented by the Food and Enterprise Development (FED), a USAID funded program which elapsed in 2016.
Speaking on a local radio station, Turay said the NDA program is an essential component for the country’s food security program improvement and should be taken seriously.
But Turay stated that since the phasing out of the FED project, some of the colleges that run the NDA course seem to encounter some constraints.
He did not however provide the specific challenges, but mentioned that it could be due to the lack of funding.
Turay is a product of the NDA program from the Grand Bassa Community College who has become a potential entrepreneur in the agricultural sector.
He manages the Agrolite agricultural company in Lofa County that is now attracting jobs for many of the residents.
Turay mentioned during the interview that the NDA program boosted enrollment of young people for agriculture at the various Centers.
“Without the young people's participation in agriculture, our food security improvement will become bleak. I am a product of the NDA program from the Grand Bassa Community College. Because of the skills that I acquired from the program I was determined to venture into agriculture. Today, I have established my own oil palm plantation,” Turay said.
The Agrolite CEO said that his business is based in Lofa County with the objective of increasing the productivity of oil palm farmers.
According to him, his organization works with over 50 smallholder farmers making provision for affordable seedlings to oil palm farmers.
He said the major challenge is the lack of purchasing power for many of the farmers, particularly the young people to purchase the seedlings.
“We provide technical training for the farmers. We have a team of young people who are working with the farmers. Our organization is providing high quality seedlings to farmers. We have acquired a large portion of land to expand production and we are also intending to do processing of the oil palm,” he narrated.
After his graduation from the NDA program, Turay was fortunate to have won a grant from an institution in Nigeria that led to the strengthening of his organization.
“We completed all of our courses of the NDA that made us what we are today. I also benefited from a program in Nigeria that gave me a grant valued US$5,000 that empowered me to start a business,” he said.
Turay said since then his organization has developed the skills of the young people in the oil palm sector.
“We worked with many young people. We give them the seedlings at affordable prices just to make sure that they have access to seedlings. We have more high quality seedlings. We are now planning to do processing,” he explained.
“We won a grant to help provide processing opportunities for the people. Ninety percent of those working with us are young people who have graduated from high school. Many of them are impressed by my work and it is attracting more young people,” he added.
Turay stressed the need for the government to empower those young people who are in the sector.
“The government needs to provide that platform for the youths if they will be encouraged for agricultural activities.
According to him, the youth in the sector have recommended to the government a strategy that will focus on the development of the young people.
“We did recommend to the government right after our youth summit that there should be a specific sector to look into developing the skills of the young people. One of the main problems is the lack of empowerment. This is a serious issue. Many of the youths are graduating from training programs of agriculture and trying to start agriculture business but no support,” he stated.
Turay also mentioned the need for the government to prioritize farm machination, something he said would attract the youths’ participation for agriculture.
“Government must prioritize mechanized farming. There must be competition for the youths with awards. This will encourage more young people into agriculture. The issue of youth forming a cooperative is a good idea. The projects for youths must ensure that the youth are forming a cooperative to get assistance is a main criteria,” he stated.
Meanwhile, when contacted, William Vonyeegar, Dean for Agriculture and Food Sciences at the Grand Bassa County said that the NDA program currently faces challenges.
According to him, there is a lack of coordination on the part of the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Education Ministry Technical and Vocational Education departments to ensure that prospective graduates participate in the regional test that qualifies students for the NDA program.
He also said that lack of funding to enhance practical education for the students is also another challenge.
“The diploma has been delayed due to the lack of coordination by the government to ensure that Liberia participates in the regional test. We also have the problem of funding to enhance practical use for the students,” he mentioned.
He said the enrollment for the NDA program has dropped over the years at his institution.