By Judoemue M. Kollie
At least 57 farmers, mostly women who are members of the Gbehlay-Geh Rural Women Multipurpose Farmers’ Cooperative (GRWMFC), have accessed loans valued US$100,000 to advance agricultural projects in their district.
The loan was provided by the Liberia Agri-business Development Activity (LADA) and the Liberia Entrepreneurial Assess Development (LEAD) on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 in collaboration with Cellcom Liberia at a colorful program held in Karnplay, Gbehlay-Geh District, Nimba County.
The program was attended by the local authorities of Gbehlay-Geh District, representative of the Ministry of Agriculture and farmer beneficiaries among others.
The farmers received loans ranging from US$160 to US$25,000 through a digital financial service (DFS) transaction implemented by Cellcom Liberia.
LADA has partnered with LEAD and Cellcom to pilot access to finance to rural farmers through the use of the DFS to increase agricultural financing in order to boost farm production.
In January of this year, LADA provided a grant of US$50,000 to LEAD as part of its co- investment fund to empower members of the Gbehlay-Geh cooperative. LEAD matched the LADA grant for a total of US$100,000 that was given out as loans to the cooperative.
LEAD is a financial lending institution that is increasing access to finance to Liberian farmers.
Speaking at the program, LADA’s Nimba County Coordinator Thomas Gayeplu explained that his institution is working to build the capacity of smallholder farmers to become financially strong to increase production to make Liberia food secure and improve the lives of farmers.
“The purpose of the loan is to get the farmers to produce more rice and have it processed for the markets, so that Liberia can reduce the demand for rice imports,” he said.
According to statistic, Liberia spends US$200 million for rice import every year.
Mr. Gayeplu disclosed that the Gbehlay-geh women were one of the first farming groups to become beneficiaries of the LADA program, adding that the farmers will soon benefit from an industrialized rice mill that will improve their production.
“We asked that you make proper use of the loan to grow more rice to improve your businesses. The loan will empower you to overcome market constraint as you process enough rice for the market,” he admonished the farmers.
LEAD’s Nimba County Manager Winston Sayekain said that the Gbehlay-geh farmers have proven faithful in the past, using loans for the intended purpose and paying the money back on time.
“We are working with several farming organizations in Nimba, including the Gbehlay-geh cooperative. This cooperative has demonstrated commitment to use loan for the intended purpose and they have paid back the money on time,” he said.
The Corporate and Marketing Manager of Cellcom, Eric Clarke, informed the farmers that his entity aims to introduce the “Smile Cellcom mobile” money transaction in order to increase access to finance for rural farmers.
“This is a new commercial money transaction that is being carried out by our company in partnership with LADA and LEAD to increase farmers’ incomes. You can send and receive money to pay bills and solve other household problems through the mobile phones to our agent, as it is being shown here today,” he told the farmers at the program.
The District Agriculture Officer (DAO) of Gbehlay-geh district, Madison T. Gonkarnue, said: “I am well pleased with the latest development to help our farmers become productive. We will work in our capacity to ensure that the money given to the farmers is used for the improvement of various farm projects.”
For his part, the Statutory District Superintendent of Gbehlay-geh district thanked LADA and its partners for supporting farmers in his district and called for more assistance so that other farmers can benefit.
Meanwhile, the chairlady of the GRWMFC, Madam Annie Kruah, told journalists at the end of the program that her members were very proud of the financial assistance provided by LADA and its partners.
“I considered this money as a challenge to ensure that we grow more rice for the district to stop our people’s dependency on imported rice. With this loan, we will work hard to improve our various farm projects in the community,” she assured.
She disclosed that her group specializes in rice and cassava production and process and sell the rice to the Government of Liberia and World Food Program.