By Judoemue Kollie and Simeon Wiakanty
The Liberia Agribusiness Development Activity (LADA) recently made a donation of two generators worth US$21,100 to a vegetable aggregator and food processor in Margibi and Montserrado counties.
The Papé Natural Food Enterprise of Kakata received a 25kva generator, while the Life Focus Liberia Limited of Mount Barclay received a 30kva unit.
The generators form part of several other equipment that LADA is currently procuring under its Co-Investment Fund (CIF), a matching grant fund aimed at building the capacities of agribusinesses in Liberia, according to Victor Ngorbu, CIF manager at the LADA program.
Ngorbu told journalists during the delivery of the generators that his institution is building the capacity of agribusinesses in order to improve the incomes of smallholder farmers through market linkages and value addition.
“LADA intends to enhance agribusiness productivity in the rice, cassava, vegetables, cocoa and aquaculture value chains. These empowered groups are involved in the aggregation and processing of food. We are collaborating with them to procure some machines that will enhance their aggregation and processing capacities. These generators are part of other equipment that will provide them with capacity to produce more food products for the market,” he said.
“With these interventions, we expect that the productivity of these plants will increase to enable smallholder farmers to access better markets to earn more money and reduce poverty,” he said.
LADA’s model to support agribusiness is meant to sustain them without much assistance from donor organizations in the future, he emphasized. The LADA CIF manager said several enterprises have benefited and others are in the process of benefiting from the initiative.
According to a LADA press release, Life Focus Liberia Limited is benefiting from a grant of US$108,000, while Pape Natural Food received US$127,000 under a 50 percent cost-share arrangement. Patom Enterprise, another beneficiary in Montserrado County, received a 30kva generator from LADA on Monday.
The managing director of the Papé Natural Food Enterprise, who received the equipment, lauded CNFA/LADA for the high level of support.
Joe Togba said the 25kva generator will put his group in the position to intensify the production of more foodstuffs for the market.
Papé Natural Foods is a family-owned and operated venture with its roots firmly planted in Margibi County that buys farm produce from smallholder farmers for processing.
‘‘We have a small and dedicated staff, most of whom are women; ensuring that everyone receives training in all aspects of food processing is important to us. We are looking for more opportunities to work with more smallholder farmers in the future to improve their income generation through value addition,” he said.
Gaye Suomie, administrative manager of Life Focus Liberia, told reporters that his institution is involved in sourcing vegetables from smallholder farmers and selling them to supermarkets, restaurants, and hotels in Monrovia.
“The LADA project donation is greatly transforming our facility in many ways as we are expecting a cold storage container that will improve our processing and aggregation capacities to reach more smallholder farmers,” he disclosed.
The LADA program is a 5-year Feed the Future initiative of the U.S government aimed at increasing the income of smallholder farmers through increased private sector investment in the agribusiness sector of Bong, Lofa and Montserrado counties.
In a related development, LADA over the weekend facilitated loans worth US$44,000 from the Liberia Entrepreneurial Asset Development (LEAD) for six farmers cooperatives in Montserrado County to improve farm productivity.
The six farmers cooperatives are Tononvapolue, Mawah, God’s Grace, Zota Estate, Garden Fish and the Low Cost Village farming clusters. They received loans ranging from US$3,000 to US$10,000.
Access to loans remains a challenge for smallholder farmers and other agribusinesses in Liberia as they lack collateral to borrow money from commercial banks. Also, most commercial banks charge high interest rates on loans, making the loans very difficult for many smallholder farmers.
LADA has partnered with LEAD, a microfinance institution that is being supported by the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) in Liberia to promote access to loans for smallholder farmers.
The farmers cooperatives will use the loan to purchase inputs (fertilizers, improved seeds, pesticide, etc) to improve crop production.