A civil society organization has announced what it said is a master plan to help Liberians start the debate on issues including agriculture, support infrastructure, fisheries, steel products initiative, gold and jewelry value addition, commerce, finance and banking, the sea and airports to ensure maximum benefit for Liberia.
Speaking at the official launching of Liberians for Change Movement (LCM) on July 26 in the Township of West Point, the chairman of the Board of Directors, John Yedeba Brownell, enumerated several issues of national interest that he said if negotiated properly could change the economic future of Liberians and let them own their country.
Brownell said Liberians are blessed to have three major agriculture concessionaires operating in western and southeastern Liberia with the means to elevate hundreds of thousands of Liberians out of poverty while at the same time creating enormous cash flows through a robust and well-targeted smallholder farmer’s approach.
However, he said, there must a process in place to develop and allocate up to 320,000 hectares using land clearing equipment and agricultural extension service capacity already in country. “This can be achieved through closer collaboration with these giant operators. The allocation of developed and planted land for up to 320,000 Liberians at 1 hectare per person could be done on a priority basis over time,” he said.
The counties to benefit from this initiative he said are Cape Mount, Bomi and Gbarpolu in the west; Grand Gedeh, Grand Bassa, Sinoe, Grand Kru and Maryland in the south East and Grand Gedeh and Grand Bassa with long oil palm plantation histories and proximity to palm operators qualify them for the initiative.
“This will give ownership of at least 263 high yielding oil palm trees to each of the 320 thousand Liberians over the 25 years useful life. A yield of 4 metric tons of crude palm oil per hectare at a conservative price of US$600 generates an annual income of US$2,400 per family or aggregate family income of US$96 million for, 40,000 hectares developed per targeted county per annum, by the time the trees start bearing fruit,” he explained.
Brownell said it would yield an annual income of US$768 million to 320,000 farm families when the trees are fully grown from the targeted palm counties near or within those concession areas, which is an extremely conservative estimate.
At the same time, he said two serious commercial rice farming operators from Vietnam and Thailand could be encouraged to establish commercial rice farming in Liberia with adequate incentives to develop 40,000 hectares of nucleus farms mainly in the lowland areas of Lofa, Bong, Nimba, Grand Gedeh and River Gee counties.
He said an additional 80,000 hectares will be developed for smallholder emanating from these counties with the same approach as the oil palm smallholders ownership scheme with an estimated seed rice yield of 1.5 metric tons per hectare and with commercial rice operators, providing strong extension services.
“We expect to plant two crops per annum or 3.0 metric tons. This equates to sixty 50 kilogram bags per year. If each 50kilogram bag of seed rice is sold at US$10.00, then each smallholder family will earn US$1,200 per annum. The annual income to be earned by 80,000 farm families will be US$ 96 million,” he said.
Brownell said the government would also encourage one or two major commercial cocoa operators from Cote d’Ivoire to be positioned in Lofa, Nimba and Grand Gedeh counties with another smallholder plan of not less than 50,000 hectares per county and minimum one hectare per smallholder.
“Only high yielding hybrid 2-year cocoa varieties would be used. Large natural rubber concessions now considering diversifying into cocoa investments would also be encouraged to support the smallholder program. Due to the scale of these massive land development initiatives, Liberia will indefinitely place a ban on logging activities to preserve our environment,” he said.
Brownell gave an extensive explanation on similar detailed arrangements in several areas, including support structure, fisheries, steel products initiatives, commerce and gold and jewelry and finance and banking. He said the master plan is a robust intentional policy that will attract the most vulnerable component of the Liberian society and some would-be farm owners for the first time.