The Minister of Agriculture has called on donors to align agriculture projects with national priorities for the development of the agriculture sector instead of setting priorities that do not benefit the sector or country.
In a conversation with Jakob Tuborgh, the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) Manager for Liberia and Niger, Minister Jeanine Cooper said it is frustrating that the Rome-based organization project is not aligned with the government’s national development strategy that seeks to impact farmers.
Min. Cooper added that the IFAD’s funded projects which focus on cocoa are not in alignment with the overall cocoa development strategy of Liberia, but “only concentrated on specific location leaving out other counties and relevant private sector actors.”
“The Government of Liberia must be the one to set projective priorities for agriculture development rather than being told to come on board to implement projects. Now, it is the time for us to decide what we want and not what we should be told to do,” Minister Cooper told the visiting IFAD’s Mission delegation to Liberia.
According to an MOA press release, IFAD Liberia’s project portfolio is the highest donor-funded project in the agriculture sector followed by the World Bank and African Development Bank. The IFAD US$47.6 million Tree Crops Extension Project (TCEP) which the Minister says has no alignment with the overall cocoa development strategy in Liberia, started in 2019 and focuses on enabling poor rural women and men to overcome poverty through farm rehabilitation and seedlings and training supports.
It targets 10,000 smallholder farmers and its aim is to raise their income by modernizing cocoa farming, increasing production, and developing markets. The TCEP project is a six-year project in eight districts in Nimba County which kicked off in 2017, while the TCEP-II started in 2019 and ends in 2024 with a focus on six districts in Lofa County.
Aside from the TCEP-II, the Minister also raised concerns about the impact of IFAD finances Rural Community Finance Project (RCFP) that seeks micro-credit financing for petty traders, smallholder farmers, food processors among others who demonstrate interest and willingness to expand their economic activities.
RCFP is a microfinance project jointly implemented by the Central Bank of Liberia and the MOA. It commenced in 2017 after a Financing Agreement was entered into with the GOL in 2016. The Project is located in eight counties: Bong, Gbarpolu, Grand Kru, Lofa, Nimba, River Gee, Rivercess, and Sinoe.
IFAD co-financed the Smallholder Agriculture Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P) with the World Bank. STAR-P is a seven-year project under the MOA that kicked off in 2018 and will end in 2024.
The project aims to increase agricultural productivity and commercialization of smallholder farmers engaged in rice, vegetables, and oil palm value chains in nine of Liberia’s fifteen counties namely, Bomi, Bong, Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh, Lofa, Margibi, Maryland and Nimba,” the MOA release said. In response to the Minister, Tuborgh, said, “The Mission is here to find solutions in ensuring its funded projects are well implemented and prepared to work with the GOL on projects alignment in achieving IFAD and Government goals.