A press release from the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has disclosed that the Ministry has begun lending farm tractors to smallholder farmers ahead of planting season to enhance productivity.
According to the release authorities of the ministry made the move recently when a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed with the Kpawee Farm cooperative which is located in the commercial town of Ganta, near the Guinean border in Nimba County.
Access to mechanized farming implements has been a major constraint from Liberian farmers.
The release said that the initiative is in fulfillment of the Ministry of Agriculture’s new vision to shift from manual labor to mechanized farming.
The power tiller was among several donated agriculture equipment and implements –dusty with spider web increasing on them –have been kept at the ministry’s warehouse off Somalia Drive, now renamed Japan Freeway,” the release said.
A power tiller is a two-wheeled tractor normally used in preparing soil, sowing seeds, planting seeds. Additionally, it helps in pumping water, harvesting, threshing and transporting crops.
According to the release, the United Nations’ food assistance agency, World Food Programme (WFP), in January donated several power tillers to the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) to help support farmers move to mechanized farming.
“We cannot allow the power tillers to be kept at our warehouse for spider web to get on them when farmers need them badly. For this reason, we started to engage farmers to use them ahead of the upcoming farming season and Kpawee Farm is the first beneficiary”, Agriculture Minister Jeanine Cooper said.
Minister Cooper said: “The power tiller will be used on a three-month basis –as per the MOU –by Kpawee Farm. We urge Kpawee Farm to also lend to other farmers in the Ganta area who will be in need of them. As a ministry, our role is to work with and support farmers to ensure food sufficiency through food production”.
Josephus Stewart Belleh, manager of Kpawee Farm, lauded the Ministry for the loan of the power tiller, adding, “We are excited about the power tiller. It is a gesture we have long be awaiting and it will help boost our food production”.
The signing ceremony was witnessed by J. Nagbe Sloh, Member of the House of Representatives from Sinoe County and George Forboh, Deputy Minister of Agriculture for Regional Development, Research and Extension.
In a related development, the Agriculture Minister has, with immediate effect, cancelled a bidding process for heavy-duty tractors and other agricultural equipment in order to rationalize spending of donor funds,
According to the release the minister has requested a new bid that includes an expanded list of equipment better suited to Liberia’s climate and topography; more aligned to farmers’ needs and for smaller farm sizes and rationalized with agricultural assets already on ground.
“We need to have a more rational use of available resources, especially as we enter a State of Emergency for the COVID-19. We can’t afford to spend money buying equipment that we will not be used”, Minister Cooper asserted.
Minister Cooper exercises overall supervision of all government and donor funded projects within the agriculture sector.
“The heavy-duty tractors and other agricultural equipment were to be purchased through a multi donor-funded project under the Ministry of Agriculture name: “Smallholder Agricultural Productivity Enhancement & Commercialization (SAPEC)”.
The SAPEC Project comes to an end in June this year after it started in 2013. Its objectives are to enhance incomes of small holder farmers, particularly women and rural youth and Intensify land under cassava, rice and vegetable production and improve land husbandry.
“Our farmers need equipment and tools suited for Liberia; for our farms and crops. Light tractors and skid steers that can facilitate de-stumping and land preparation on farm sizes that are as small as 1 hectare”, she insisted.
The Minister added, “Instead of three 16-ton trucks, that will have limited functionality, we should be looking at 3- to 6-ton trucks that are more agile and are more appropriate for off-road conditions. Farmers need help with post-harvest machinery, and to be able to use modern drying techniques that will reduce their losses after harvesting”.
She maintained, “The cancellation is meant to avoid wasteful spending, and reduce the quantity of unusable or unused equipment in our warehouses.
Minister Cooper noted –since her nomination and appointment by His Excellency President George Weah –practical actions are being put in place in accordance with the President’s vision for the Ministry of Agriculture to properly coordinate funding in the agriculture sector to benefit farmers.
The cancelled bid contained 17 pieces of equipment, parts and accessories. But for the re-tendering, Minister Cooper said, the bid has been expanded to 40 types of equipment that more directly benefit to rice producers, cassava processors and vegetable farmers.
Some very expensive equipment in the original bid were actually duplicates of machines that had been purchased through other projects in the past, and are sitting unused in Ministry warehouses.
For the new bid, priority will be placed on companies that have proven capacity to procure, maintain and repair equipment.)”