The Liberia Integrated Agricultural Consultants, a local professional firm under the auspices of the Rubber Planters Association of Liberia (RPAL) and the Rubber Development Fund Inc, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) has completed a two-day workshop that trained 30 enumerators, a press release from the LIAC has said.
The training aimed at empowering the enumerators with the requisite knowledge needed to conduct a survey that could lead to the profiling of rubber farms and the formulation of a program document to develop Liberia’s rubber sector.
According to the release, the rubber sector profile and survey exercise are expected to be completed by June 2021. It shall result in an up-to-date rubber sector information system, the Rubber Sector Cadaster, comprising a dataset in hard and electronic form and geographic information system (GIS), hosted on a public portal for accessibility and; technicians trained in the collection and updating of data related to the database as well as the preparation of a rubber sector program document that could address the challenges in the sector.
The release said the training comes in wake of the decline in local rubber production, which required the RPAL and the MoA along with other stakeholders in the rubber sector in 2009 to undertake a review process of the sector entitled the “Liberia Rubber Sector Master Plan” which recommended, among other options, that a profile of the sector be undertaken which would survey and scope the actors in the sector.
Despite significant decline, rubber cultivation remains a mainstay of the Liberian economy. The continuous adverse developments in the Liberian economy (post-Ebola and COVID-19), have provided the background for current macroeconomic efforts at addressing this critical economic sector, the release said.
The release further revealed that in 2020, the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance & Development Planning, along with other stakeholders working through an Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee, established a Technical Working Group (TWG) to map out short, medium and long-term strategies to stabilize and stimulate local rubber production. The TWG, working with Liberia Integrated Agricultural Consultants Inc., developed a framework of activities, while addressing the immediate challenges, that would advance the strategic goals outlined in the Rubber Sector Master Plan.
The release noted that these activities to be implemented were sequential in that, at the end of each component, the sector’s capacity could be enhanced, allowing further developments to be implemented.
Significantly, the release added, the first recommended activity in the framework document is the need to profile or survey the sector to allow preparation of a holistic rubber sector program document that would inform investment into the sector’s value chain by the private sector.
“Based on preliminary information, the indicative project budget would be driven by the actual number of existing farms, the quantity of land to be surveyed or profiled and the number of plantings and plots,” the release said.
Meanwhile, according to the release, major rubber off-takers have significantly reduced their processing capacities in order to rehabilitate, which will last for the next six months and therefore require immediate assistance to the sector to purchase an estimated 4,500 metric tons per month (20%) of the current production.
“A framework for addressing the production constraints in the sector has been produced by LIAC, which is pending funding by various stakeholders. With the onset of the current production season in April, and the continued inability of the major foreign concessions to purchase production from local farmers, the training efforts will allow the stakeholders assess and evaluate the ongoing situation with a view of responding to the challenges,” the release concluded.