-- Donates equipment as part of its farm Mechanization drive
The agriculture sector of Liberia consists primarily of subsistence farmers whose outputs are barely enough to feed their household or the country, which is food insecure.
But in a bid to improve farmers' outputs, the Ministry of Agriculture has begun supporting various kinds of farm machinery as a means of reducing poverty and improving food security.
The ministry's actions came recently, when more than 200 farmers, cooperatives, and processors were empowered with machines under its 'Smallholder Agriculture, Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P).'
STAR-P is a World Bank and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) funded project that aims at promoting smallholder agriculture commercialization and improving access to markets through facilitating linkages, with private sector firms in the selected commodities value chains.
Some of the farm machines and inputs delivered to the beneficiaries are rice mills, thrashers, de-stoners, power tillers, and fertilizers, etc.
In remarks over the week in Gardnerville, outside Monrovia, during the second batch of equipment delivery by the MOA, the Deputy Minister for Planning and Regional Development, Robert Fagans said more than 400 farmers and processors have been assisted to improve production.
He said that the goal is to assist smallholder farmers and other members of the value chain with farm machines to enable them to leave subsistence farming to commercialize.
Min. Fagans added that the equipment was procured under the STAR-P program to assist farmers in the rice, cassava, and vegetable value chains.
"This equipment distribution exercise is a continuation of the ministry’s initiative to empower beneficiaries,” he said.
According to the minister, the beneficiaries who assisted were selected from the project-targeted: Lofa, Nimba, Bong, Margibi, Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, Maryland, Sinoe, and Gbarpolu counties.
He said that beneficiaries of the equipment were selected through an independent vetting process that allowed them to be qualified for the assistance.
“We were able to thoroughly vet the beneficiaries who are receiving that equipment today. The intention is to support the agriculture sector, mainly those farmers and other value chains within the food sector. They now have the opportunity to mechanize so that the country can boost domestic production,” he stated.
The Deputy Agriculture Minister further explained that his ministry is working to support the value chain with loans to enable them to improve their businesses.
He stated that the equipment delivered to the beneficiaries was meant to increase their production capacity to supply the market with more food.
According to him, the support to farmers is by President George M. Weah’s mandates to assist people in the sector in line with the country’s development agenda.
“The Ministry has started receiving proposals from potential farmers and agribusinesses to access loans under our loan program,” he mentioned.
Minister Fagans said that the process of receiving loans was transparent and will allow qualified businesses to develop.
The Deputy Agriculture Minister used the occasion to urge the beneficiary cooperatives to ensure that other farmers in the communities can have access to the use of the equipment.
Meanwhile, the beneficiaries of the equipment and agricultural inputs have thanked the government for empowering them. They have however called on the Ministry to continue to work with them in improving their businesses.