The government, through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), has attracted development finance in an amount of US$32 million from the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) to support the Tree Crops Extension Project (TCEP) and Smallholder Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P) implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The amount, according to the document, will increase agricultural productivity and commercialization on the part of smallholder farmers in the vegetable, rice and oil palm value chains in Bomi, Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh, Lofa, Margibi, Maryland, Nimba and Sinoe counties under the STAR-P.
This amount is in addition to a US$$25 million loan agreement previously signed between the government and the World Bank.
With the IFAD funding, direct beneficiaries are approximately 38,000 smallholder farmers of whom at least 30 percent will be women and young farmers.
Intermediate beneficiaries will include agribusinesses and business development services enterprises that have business links to smallholder farmers in the targeted value chains.
The remaining US$9 million, which is in addition to US$17.5 million received, originally from IFAD, will support the rehabilitation of rural roads in the Tree Crop Extension Project (TCEP) area in Nimba County.
The TCEP is intended to improve the incomes and address climate change challenges of smallholder cocoa producers in Nimba County targeting 11,000 stakeholders of the cocoa value chain including 8,000 cocoa smallholder members of the Kuu groups and farmer field school (FFS), approximately 2,400 additional farmers will benefit from the rehabilitation of roads, input supply and market linkages; and 600 people through job creation along the value chain.
The additional financing is composed of a 27 percent grant and a 73 percent highly concessional loan.
MFDP Samuel Tweah signed on behalf of the Liberian government while it’s Country Manager for Liberia, Mr. Jakob Tuborgh represented IFAD.
Speaking during the program at the MFDP on Thursday, November 21, 2019, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture Mr. Ernest Clarke thanked IFAD for the initiative he said the initiative would help in building the capacity of farmers and boost economic growth in the nine counties. Deputy Minister Clarke assured that the Ministry of Agriculture is committed to the projects and will ensure that the goals are achieved.
The Country Manager of IFAD, Mr. Jakob Tuborgh described the signing ceremony as a critical juncture in boosting the agriculture sector with the projects that are starting up, adding: “I think we have managed to respond to the request of the government to set-up a partnership to have a larger project and work in synergy to really see impact in these projects.”
Mr. Tuborgh noted that his organization’s expectation in the cocoa project is high as there are prospects in the sector over the next ten years for producers and the country.
He disclosed that IFAD’s investment in the cocoa sector in Liberia is intended to lead to increased production of approximately 10,000 metric tons as compared to current production levels in the project area, which will have a value of approximately US$25 million on an annual basis subject to price variations.
Speaking about the STAR-P project, the IFAD Boss indicated that the project would increase production in the value chains in rice, oil palm, and horticulture with a strong private sector link, which is expected to address many of the constraints ranging from boosting production to enhanced regulatory frameworks as well as bridging the gap between smallholder farmers and large concessions.
The World Bank Liberia Country Manager, Khwima Nthara said the event was timely as the Bank was responding to calls from the Liberian government to do more in the agriculture sector.
He disclosed that this is one of the largest support packages in the sector, which is intended to scale up the gaps, and the Bank looks forward to its implementation.
Responding on behalf of the Liberian government, Minister Tweah commended the World Bank and IFAD for the additional support to the agriculture sector.
Tweah said the government has agreed to take a system sector-wide approach to agriculture instead of a project approach, which will provide a broader scope, which will solve the constraints in the value chain.
He said the Smallholder Agriculture model is a mechanism that is widely used around the world and the STAR-P is strategic in this sector.
Tweah noted that with the necessary support provided by smallholder farmers, food production would increase.
Commenting on the provision of loans to farmers from the banks, Minister Tweah indicated that the banks could make huge investments in the agriculture sector but unfortunately, that is not the case.
He explained that the banks have said that it is risky to loan money to farmers because the government has not organized the financing flow.
According to him, this is posing a serious challenge to the sector, as the process of accessing funds from the bank is complicated.
He disclosed that the government has allotted US$1.7 million in the current budget, part of which is to deal with the risk of lending in the sector.
Tweah reiterated appeals for the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the World Bank to assist the government to de-risk lending to the agriculture sector so that the banks will see agriculture as a place to make returns.
The coordinators of the TCEP and STAR-P programs along with three lawmakers witnessed the program from Nimba County.