The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has provided 3 agro machines (Track Crawling Power tillers) and 15 pieces of laptop computers to the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) to increase the productivity of smallholder farmers and to strengthen the data collection processes of the Ministry.
The agro-machines and lap top computers, which were funded by FAO with additional support from the United Nations Peace Building Fund (FBF) and the Joint Program on the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women (RWEE), were presented to the Ministry on Friday, August 25, 2020 at a ceremony marking the Commissioning of Project Equipment and Data Collection Devices held at the MOA Project Management Unit Facilities in Gardnersville, outside Monrovia.
The 3 track crawling power tillers are planned for use in Bomi, Margibi and Nimba Counties, which mostly affected by concessions and will be accessed by smallholder farmers under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) sustainable process scheme. In these counties, FAO has established an integrated model gardens of five hectares where high value vegetables and poultry are produced.
Receiving the equipment, Agriculture Minister, Jeanine M. Cooper said that Liberia cannot become successful toward increasing productivity in the agricultural sector without supporting farmers to mechanize.
She said the equipment will increase smallholder farmers’ productivity and strengthen the work of the ministry, particularly in the area of data collection.
According to the Minister, the Liberia can become food secure if more investment is made in agriculture to access various kinds of farm machines that can be used by farmers.
“This initiative is highly welcoming. It will boost the capacity of our farmers and the ministry. The FAO’s presence in Liberia since its inception and now has proven very rewarding. The equipment will help improve and increase the production of food in the counties,” she mentioned.
“As for the laptop computers it shall enhance data collection efforts of the ministry to be able to operate, particularly during this coronavirus crisis that makes work very difficult as many of the works are now done by computers,” she said.
Madam Cooper further said that considering the agricultural land conditions of Liberia, the equipment is highly significant.
“Many of our farming is done manually and there is a need that we grow up to the 21st century, where machines do most of the work. The idea of track power tillers, instead of wheels, is suitable for lowland farms that are waterlogged,” she explained.
She however, expressed the hope that the PPP process being introduced by FAO to get farmers to access the equipment will succeed.
“To say that the PPP process will ensure that the equipment are not used on a free of charge basis as farmers will be responsible to pay a little amount toward the maintenance of the machines, is something to closely look into,” she said.
She called on FAO to clearly define the role of the Ministry toward the monitoring aspect of the initiative.
“This is a model that we know has been difficult to sustain so we would like to know exactly how it is going to be structured for the benefit of the farmers,” she warned.
FAO Assistant Representative for Programs, Octavius Quarbo, who presented the equipment on behalf of the FAO country representative Mariatou Njie, said that the donation demonstrates the organization’s continuous commitment to make sure that farmers can access more assistance to make Liberia food secure.
He stated that FAO has developed the (PPP) model for the sustainability of the program.
Quarbo stated that farmers in concessions affected communities will be strengthened through the use of the equipment to improve livelihood incomes.
“The PPP process is a proposal toward ensuring that the equipment are sustained with support of the MOA. This is not the first of its kind that the FAO is initiating such a strategy. The main purpose is for farmers to see agriculture as a business.
“To make agriculture more sustainable we must involve the private sector. So once this strategy works, then we can scale up to other counties,” he explained.
Highlighting the importance of research to policymaking and program development, he stated that the portable computers donated to the Ministry of Agriculture, under the FAO’s Technical Cooperation Program – which contributed to strengthening the Statistics Unit, would aid in addressing the challenges statisticians face in data collection.