The Deputy Chief of Party for Programs at the Liberia Agribusiness Development Activity (LADA), Watchen Harris Bruce has disclosed that her institution has already committed over US$2 million from its US$3 million matching grant fund to help improve various agribusinesses in the country.
She made the disclosure last Monday during a program commemorating this year’s World Food Day.
World Food Day is celebrated globally every year to highlight food security challenges facing the world. The theme of this year’s celebration was “Change the Future of Migration; Invest in Food Security and Rural Development.”
It was celebrated in Liberia by the Ministry of Agriculture and several development partners.
Mrs. Bruce said the innovative approach will attract over US$9 million in total to increase private sector investment that would improve the income of many smallholder farmers.
“These grants will serve as a vehicle for introducing new technologies and business models that once proven successful can be replicated by entrepreneurs without donor involvement in the future,” she stated.
She said further that her institution is currently finalizing the procurement of two integrated commercial scale rice mills for two rice milling enterprises in Voinjama and Foya Districts, Lofa County.
“We have also finalized the procurement of smaller scale commercial rice mills for two farmers cooperatives in Nimba County and expect to have them commissioned in January 2018,” she added.
According to Bruce, each of the large rice mills that will be assigned in Lofa has the capacity to produce 10 metric tons of high quality parboiled rice per day through automated processes to meet acceptable market standards that can compete with imported rice.
“The two smaller mills will produce 8 to 10 metric tons per day of properly polished and stone free milled rice. These interventions are expected to support Liberia in producing roughly 15,000 metric tons of good quality milled rice per year and develop a ‘Made in Liberia’ brand,” she said.
The LADA deputy chief of party for programs mentioned that the goal is to reduce rice imports to below 30 percent by end of 2020.
She added that to improve the cassava value chain, LADA is procuring a high output commercial scale cassava processing equipment that will upgrade the processing capacity of four cassava processing enterprises in Bong, Montserrado, Nimba and Lofa counties.
“Four cassava processing enterprises’ capacity will be upgraded to supply high quality cassava products to local consumers, restaurants and supermarkets,” she said.
Mrs. Bruce said to improve the vegetable value for increased income of smallholder farmers, LADA has ordered deep freezers, cold storage and a freezer truck for an aggregator who is working with smallholder farmers to develop quality fruits and vegetables for the local market.
“This is expected to improve the income of many smallholder vegetable farmers,” she stated.
“We are also working on the establishment of a post-harvest technology service center at the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI). The post-harvest technology service center will serve as a training and demonstration facility where smallholder farmer organizations, aggregators and agro-processors can physically see various post-harvest technologies and their application as well as acquire new knowledge and skills in post-harvest through site visits and practical demonstrations,” she disclosed.
Meanwhile, Bruce said plans are underway for her institution to upgrade the National Standards Laboratory at the Ministry of Commerce to meet international standards.
“This initiative will create increased market access for smallholder farmers for better income opportunity and enhance food safety,” she said.
LADA is a 5-year Feed the Future U.S Government initiative that aims to increase private sector investment in the Liberian agribusiness sector to improve the income of smallholder farmers in the rice, cassava, vegetables, cocoa and aquaculture value chains.