A youth farming group named “Kukatornon”, based in the farming community of Gbarnsue-Ngaiga in Zota District, Bong County about 29km from the Liberian border with Guinea, has planted 35 acres of farmland with cassava crop.
The chairman of the group, John Lofoe, told the Daily Observer on Monday, July 16, that the project is part of the government’s Youth Opportunities Project (YOP), with funding from the World Bank, aimed at helping young people transform their lives.
“There are two main locally produced staple foods — rice and cassava — but very poor households throughout Liberia are heavily dependent on markets to meet their staple food needs, particularly in rural communities. Therefore, engaging in cassava farming, we will be able to substitute rice,” Mr. Lofoe said.
He said although growth in the agricultural sector was stagnated as the result of the civil war, there has been a considerable recovery in the sector in recent times.
Lofoe added, “Given the relatively small-size of the country, the poor condition of roads linking urban centers of the country inhibits the circulation of goods from surplus to deficit areas.
“Fresh cassava is not usually traded over distances, because of the bad roads,” Lofoe said. “It is also perishable but processed forms such as gari are both traded in the country and sometimes exported.”
He informed this newspaper that the cassava will be sold, and proceeds be given to members as loans for them to establish their own businesses, noting, “This is another means of fighting poverty or becoming self-sufficient in food production.”
He said, despite public outcry for more budgetary allotment to the agriculture sector, national government investment in the sector remains so small.
He recalled how the World Bank has provided farming implements, such as cutlasses, hoes and boots, through the YOP, while the farmers provided the traditional cassava variety.
Lofoe said that the group membership comprised 28 individuals, 14 females and 14 males, who are diligently committed to the project.
He however named the limited extension service to farmers, lack of inputs and low value-addition along the agricultural value chains as some of the challenges facing rural farmers.
Mr. Lofoe then used the opportunity to appeal to the World Bank, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other philanthropic organizations to help his group with machines to process the cassava tubers into gari.
YOP Technical Team Manager, Mohammed Nasser, said the program is implemented throughout the 15 counties with the objective to reduce poverty and fight hunger through economic empowerment of poverty-stricken rural inhabitants.