Limited extension services still remain one of the major constraints facing many smallholder farmers in Liberia’s agricultural sector.
Since the end of the devastating Liberian civil war which affected agriculture, the country’s budget for agriculture is yet to align with the Malabo Declaration for Food Security that encourages African governments to allot 10 percent to their respective national budgets annually for agriculture. This could improve agricultural extension if Liberia were in adherence. But for decades, Liberia’s agricultural budget has remained at a paltry 3% with additional funding from external sources.
With more money for agriculture, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) can hire more extension workers. But currently, there are limited extension agents in the various counties. The few extension workers that are employed by MOA even lack basic logistics and inputs to reach farmers.
Becky Agro Inc, an agro inputs company based in Nimba County, is helping farmers in that part of Liberia to access improved farming techniques and inputs as way of improving farmers’ incomes through extension.
According to the executive director of Becky Agro, Rebecca Kalayi more than 8,000 smallholder vegetables and cocoa farmers in seven communities in the county are now receiving extension services through her organization.
Madam Kalayi made the disclosure to the Daily Observer recently in an exclusive interview in Monrovia.
According to her, Becky Agro was established few years ago in Saclepea, one of the major farming communities in Nimba, to make agro-inputs more accessible to farmers. Before, she explained, farmers in the communities travelled as far as Monrovia to purchase agro-inputs. The appropriate usage of the inputs was also a problem for the farmers.
“Farmers in the various farming communities no longer travelled to Monrovia as the result of our interventions,” Kalayi says. “We are teaching the farmers new practices such as the cocoa pollination and the proper applications of chemicals to improve their yield for increased incomes.”
She said Becky Agro now has sub offices in seven farming communities around Nimba and that services rendered to the farmers are free of charge. However, the farmers benefiting from their services will have to give back in the future for the assistance they received.
And: “Although we offered free services to farmers at the moment, there are other potential farmers with whom we have entered a memorandum of understanding for support,” she disclosed.
According to Madam Kalayi, with help from Solidaridad, her organization is now capacitated with motorbikes to reach more farmers with extension services.
Becky Agro is now the only agro dealer in Liberia that is playing the role of extension meaningfully.
But challenges, such as deplorable road conditions and the lack of agricultural loans, tend to impede the agro-input companies’ ability to empower more farmers in the various communities.