Judoemue kollie & Simeon Wakiaty
The Farmers Union Network (FUN) of Liberia has finished consulting with smallholder farmers on the need to identify problems that are hampering their productivity. They want the national government to enact policies that will benefit their farming activities.
The initiative, titled, “Promoting Greater Farmers Participation in Advocacy for Policy Change,” is sponsored by Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA). It has brought together farmers from Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu, and rural Montserrado counties in Western Liberia.
Others are from the Central Region, including Bong, Margibi, Nimba and Grand Bassa counties to outline their constraints.
During the consultations, the farmers outlined many challenges, including lack of access to loans, need for duty-free privileges to import agricultural materials, allotment of 10 percent of the national budget for agricultural development; as well as securing land ownership for women to engage in productive agricultural activities, climate change effects, and transportation difficulties.
The farmers have therefore called on the government to legislate necessary policies that will alleviate those constraints to enable them improve their farming activities.
Yatta B. Johnson, a farmer from Bong County, said there is a need for the government to put in place a policy that will allow small holder farmers to access low interest loans.
“We want the government to put in place a policy that will increase agricultural lending, including the inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, equipment that are imported into the country to be duty-free to enable the farmers purchase any of the materials at reasonable prices,” she said.
George Matiah from Nimba County, acknowledged the existing policies for agriculture, but said the implementation has become a major challenge to the government.
“Without the full implementation of those agriculture policies, there will continue to be a huge gap in the sector, because there will not be a vibrant agriculture, if policy makers do not actualize what is written,” he said.
Meanwhile, Wilfred Ballah, OSIWA-Liberia program officer, informed farmers in the county that the program is expected to last for 11months to allow small holder farmers highlight the challenges confronting them.
“The farmers,” Ballah said, “know what affects them and OSIWA saw that it was important to work with the FUN to bring farmers together so as to identify major issues of concerns in the agriculture sector. It is our expectation that, at the end of the project, the farmers’ concerns about agricultural policies can be taken into serious consideration by their lawmakers,” he said.
It can be recalled that OSIWA donated four laptop computers, one desktop computer, four motorbikes, a wireless printer and a projector to FUN to implement the “Promoting Greater Farmers Participation in Advocacy for Policy Change project.”
The project will hire six persons who shall serve as managers and extension officers to work with the farmers to identify their problems, according to FUN.
FUN President, Josephine Francis thanked OSIWA for the project, and promised her institution’s commitment in working with smallholder farmers to identify their challenges and engage government on the formulation of policies that can eliminate farmers’ problems.