Food Distribution, Inputs Supply Aid For Smallholder Farmers Should Be Reconsidered

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Flashback: Minister Jeanine Cooper discusses possible assistance with a woman farmer and processor in Bong County.

-MOA food security situation report indicates

A recent food security situation report of the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) says Grow, an agro advisory group, has stressed the need for food distribution and inputs supply aid to be reconsidered for smallholder farmers in light of the availability and price findings, amid the coronavirus pandemic that has hit the country.

Importantly, there are reports that smallholder farmers, comprising a significant amount of the vulnerable population of Liberia, are suffering from the devastating effects of the global pandemic. Many farmers across the country abandoned productive agriculture activities due to lock down restrictions instituted by the Government to contain the spread of the virus. Moreover, farmers are finding it very difficult to access inputs to develop their farms.

According to the report, considering the constraints that farmers are experiencing to access inputs, the MOA is fast tracking its procurement processes with donors to deliver essential farming materials to farmers, free-of-charge.

“Realizing the shortages of inputs (fertilizers, agrochemicals and seeds) and health risks to farmers, the MoA, through two donor-funded projects, STAR-P [World Bank] and IFAD, is restlessly working to accelerate the procurement processes of acquiring those inputs for free distribution to farmers across the country,” the report says.

The report also said that in spite of the closures of borders with neighboring countries, local farmers are now exploring cross-border cultural ties to bring in vital agriculture inputs and tools into the country which are scarce along Liberia’s border towns. However, the report cautioned that farmers who are engaged in cross border movements and trade are at risk of contacting the virus.

“The frequent movements of farmers into neighboring La Cote D’Ivoire in the east and Guinea, Liberia’s northern neighbor, using secondary crossing points to bring in agriculture inputs and tools, pose high risks to our farmers as they could easily get COVID-19 infected,” the report said.

Lack of inputs and tools are causing farming activities to resume at a snail’s pace, but food prices remain stable in many rural parts as County Agriculture Coordinators have reported.

In a related development, Agriculture Minister Jeanine Milly Cooper has described food self-sufficiency for Liberia as a challenge for her administration.

She said that some donors have insinuated that Liberia can not become self-reliant in food.

Minister Cooper made the statement recently in Meleke, Jorkolleh District, Bong County when she attended a COVID-19 rice seed voucher fair, organized by the Liberia Agribusiness Development Activity.

According to the agriculture minister, plans are underway by her ministry to vigorously support smallholder farmers with necessary inputs to enable them increase productivity.

“To say that Liberia can not produce enough for itself because the last 10-years it has not happened is a challenge to my administration,” she said. She has called on farmers and agricultural stakeholders to work with her in changing the narratives about the country’s agricultural sector.

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