More than 1,500 smallholder farmers in southeast Liberia are to benefit from improved cocoa seedlings, says Solidaridad Liberia. The distribution, according to the organization, is part of efforts to boost the efficient production of the commodity and improve farmers’ livelihoods. Each farmer will receive a minimum of 400 seedlings.
“Under the Cocoa Value Chain Development Programme (COVADEP), Solidaridad in collaboration with private cocoa growers will supply 600,000 hybrid cocoa seedlings to farmers in Grand Gedeh and River Gee counties at a small fee,” Solidaridad Liberia said in a press release.
The Cocoa Value Chain Development Programme (COVADEP), which is a four-year program, was launched in 2020 and is co-funded by the European Union and Solidaridad.
Presently, about 40,000 smallholder farmers depend on cocoa production for income in Liberia. The COVADEP program, according to Solidaridad, seeks to improve the situation by supporting more farmers to venture into the production business and equipping them with new knowledge and skills. “Ultimately, the program seeks to reduce poverty by increasing incomes, improving livelihoods and the resilience/competitiveness of the Liberia cocoa sector,” Solidaridad said.
The program will promote cocoa bean value addition through investment incentives and the setup of incubation centers for entrepreneurship and promote market-oriented demand for sustainably produced and/or certified cocoa in Liberia.
Additionally, COVADEP seeks to develop and implement a cocoa sector public institution, regulatory and policy frameworks in Liberia. Additionally, it seeks to set up and promote Centres for Cocoa Development as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) within private sector cocoa institutions for sustained delivery of cocoa intensification, rehabilitation, and diversification services to farmers/communities, according to Solidaridad.
Marvin Samuel, program manager for COVADEP, said that despite the vital role cocoa plays in the lives of smallholder farmers, incentives and opportunities for them to benefit from growing and selling cocoa beans were few.
“We are confident that our continuous support to the farmers and the sector would help increase farm productivity and eventually improve their incomes. This will reduce poverty and promote a vibrant cocoa sector,” Marvin said.
Also, Dr. John S. Flomo, director-general of the Liberia Agriculture Commodity Regulatory Agency (LACRA), stressed the importance for stakeholders to promote cocoa farming as a viable business venture. This, he noted, will encourage many farmers to expand their cocoa farms and boost the production of the commodity in the country for export.
Since 2018, Solidaridad began training farmers in Liberia in good agricultural practices to help them improve their productivity. New cocoa farmers are supported to diversify their farms by also planting food crops such as cassava, plantain, banana, and vegetables as they prepare their lands for cocoa cultivation.