-EU, Solidaridad on signing US$5.89M grant to boost cocoa sector
Representatives of the European Union delegation in the presence of officials of the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and Solidaridad West Africa yesterday signed a €5 million (US$5.89 million) grant for the Liberia Cocoa Sector Improvement Program (LICSIP).
Cocoa has the potential to improve the livelihoods of many smallholder cocoa farmers in the country, a joint EU and Solidaridad statement said. However, the statement added that the Liberian cocoa sector is largely non-competitive compared to neighboring countries.
The statement also explained that average yield in Liberia lags behind due to a number of reasons, including low-quality planting materials, aged and deteriorated farms, poor farm management and lack of post-harvest management skills.
“In recognition of the potential of the cocoa sector, the Liberian government prioritized the development of the cocoa sector under the Liberia Agriculture Transformation Agenda (LATA),” the statement noted, adding that the LICSIP aims to create a vibrant, competitive and profitable cocoa economy driven primarily by farmers organizations and supply chain companies within a robust national and institutional framework.
In concrete terms, the statement intimated that the project envisages training 5,000 cocoa farmers in good agricultural practices and how to improve farm management over the life of the project.
The statement revealed that employment opportunities will be created for women and youth through cocoa value chain service provision businesses in targeted counties.
It noted that the cocoa project will support the Liberian government with the creation of sector policies and develop coordinating structures.
“Solidaridad intends to increase profits for Liberian businesses by exporting high-quality cocoa beans and by linking Liberian businesses to international cocoa traders,” the statement said.
The core project counties are Bong, Nimba, and Lofa; and the cocoa project will be executed over a period of four years with an option to expand to other cocoa growing communities based on government approval.
“The signing of this contract marks the start of the implementation of the EU Liberia Agriculture Program (EULAP), with further contracts expected to be signed in the next six months,” it said.
The partnership grant agreement project, according to the statement, officially starts on January 15, 2018 in the initially targeted counties.
In remarks, the Deputy Agriculture Minister for Technical Services, Aaron Marshall, underscored the need for the disclosure of what the project partners are doing or carrying out in the targeted counties.
Minister Marshall assured the EU and Solidaridad officials of the ministry’s support and cooperation in the implementation of the cocoa sector project.
Over the years, Minister Marshall said the Liberian government has imported the nation’s staple food (rice) at a staggering amount of US$200 million.
He further stressed the need for effective coordination, monitoring, and evaluation of the various stages of the implementation processes of the cocoa sector project.
For his part, the regional director of Solidaridad West Africa, Isaac Gyamfi, assured the EU and MOA of vibrant growth and progress of the Liberian cocoa sector during the implementation of the project in the targeted counties.
“We can assure all Liberians and EU officials that Solidaridad West Africa will make the Liberian cocoa products competitive on the international market,” he said.