The President of the National Cassava Sector Coordinating Committee (NCSCC), Joseph S. Morris has unveiled that promise of President George M. Weah that Liberians will not become spectators in their own economy has come true for agribusinesses within the agricultural value chain.
According to Morris, the President’s promise is evidenced by the recent awards of contracts to nine potential agricultural entities that comprised cassava and rice entrepreneurs within the agriculture sector by the Ministry of Agriculture.
President Weah, in his inaugural address to the nation in 2018, promised to empower more local businesses to boost the economy.
The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), through its Smallholder Transformation Agriculture Project (STAP-P) Project on Friday, August 28, 2020, awarded several potential agribusinesses from the cassava and rice sectors. The intervention is part of the MOA COVID-19 emergency response plan that seeks to mitigate the impact of the virus on agriculture and food security.
When the virus was discovered in Liberia, many farmers and other actors of the agricultural value found it difficult to engage in productive activities due to stringent measures introduced by the government to stop its spread.
Beneficial cassava entities include Global Agro, Bravo Sisters, FALAMA INC, Liberia Business Incubator, Destiny Women, and Logan and Logan INC.
Mr. Morris said that with the provision of nearly US$ 1.1 million worth of contracts for the six cassava entrepreneurs, thousands of lives of smallholder cassava producers and other farming households will be greatly affected in terms of income generation through the purchase and processing of cassava tubers.
“We are also grateful to President George M. Weah for the appointment of Madam Cooper whom he earlier preferred as the only agriculture nominee for the ministry to transform agriculture at this moment. He did not make any mistake to appoint her to the position as is being demonstrated by her works to empower local farmers and other actors of the agricultural sector of Liberia.
“We see this award as the president’s commitment to empowering local businesses and his conviction that Madam Cooper is the right person capable with the passion to work with all actors to move the country’s agriculture sector forward,” he added.
He said though there are some challenges still confronting the cassava sector, the level of capacity of cassava processors being enhanced by the government and partners over the years will enable them to meet the demand of the contract in a timely manner.
“According to the contract document, the processors are to produce about 1,050 metric tons (42,000 of 25kg bags) of assorted cassava value-added products, including Gari, Fufu, and flour (otherwise Deepah) that will be supplied to government-designated warehouses across the country.
We want to assure the government through the MoA that the processors will do everything to provide in huge quantities, good quality cassava products and on time.,” he said.
Morris maintained that cassava producers are capacitated to produce more cassava for the domestic market; however, there is a need to further build the capacity of both farmers and processors to increase production.
He stressed the need for the government to invest more in agriculture so that the country will not continue to do farming through manual labor.
“The way out to food security and economic development is when we can feed ourselves and this is possible only through Agro- Mechanization,” Mr. Morris added.
“We are producing about 520,000 Metric ton cassava annually over a land space of 65,000 Hectares. With the introduction of Agriculture Mechanized equipment, we can double land cultivation and maximize cassava production. This will constitute a huge step towards our food security program,” he added.
Agriculture stakeholders had observed earlier that cassava which is the next staple food to rice for Liberians when prioritize by the Liberian government can help eliminate hunger from the country.
“It is time to include cassava into government’s ration programs. The government through the ministry of agriculture should substitute 50% of all food support/ration programs to the Army, hospitals, and other areas with cassava products. This will increase cassava preference and reduce the pressure on our staple food –rice,” he said.
“We want the banks and other major companies operating in Liberia to also include cassava products in the rations to their employees,” said Morris.