The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) says the World Bank has approved US$10.5 million funding support to the Government of Liberia (GOL) through the MoA for its COVID-19 food security, nutrition and livelihood plan aimed at mitigating the impacts of the coronavirus on the country’s food security and livelihood.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak in Liberia, there are reports that smallholder farmers and other value chain actors are finding it difficult to increase production and access better markets due to lockdown restrictions.
According to the MOA latest food security situation report, upon a recent request from the GOL, the funding was drawn from the Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC) within the World Bank’s funded Smallholder Agriculture Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P), which kicked off since 2019 that is under the direct supervision of the MoA.
The World Bank funding, the release said, will address several strategic areas to improve farmers’ productivities which include supporting infrastructures (building irrigation structures and Roads rehabilitation), support the network of inputs delivery, the construction of warehouses for agricultural commodities, and the provision of grants to farmers to increase production and enhance mechanized farming among others.
The COVID-19 food security, nutrition, and livelihood plan of the MOA was formulated in March of this year is aimed at mitigating Coronavirus’ threats and impacts on the country’s food security and livelihood. It primarily targets vulnerable and low-income families and local farmers.
Meanwhile, the release also reveals constant challenges confronting agriculture and minimum progress made by the MOA and its partners to address those challenges amid the COVID-19 lockdown that has disrupted agricultural production and the livelihood of vulnerable Liberians.
Though the report mentions the lack of agriculture technicians and limited manpower on farms to engage in rice production due to restricted movements of people during the lockdown, it fails to disclose the situation surrounding the cash collateral guarantee agreement of US$700,000 signed by the Government of Liberia (GOL) with Afriland First Bank to capacitate rice processors and other actors within the rice value chain to promote the domestic production of rice.
In March of this year the GOL through the Ministry of Finance Development and Planning (MFDP) and the MOA signed the agreement with the Bank and there are reports that the MFDP is yet to release the fund.
The cash collateral is intended to facilitate a revolving credit facility for rice processors at a lower interest rate and is expected to increase production and distribution of home-grown rice through purchasing and processing of paddy from smallholder farmers and cooperatives.
The report talks about the acute shortage of fertilizers on the market which seriously hinders crop production.
“The insufficiency of fertilizer has caused an increase in a widely eaten legume,” the release said. “A 50-kg rice bag-size of cabbage, once sold for US$40 before the lockdown, is now marketed at US$75.”
There is also unavailability of a variety of seeds and tractors in all parts of the country as the planting season draws closer, the release further said.
According to the release the MOA is fast-tracking the procurement process of various types of fertilizers and tractors for distribution to farmers across the country ahead of the planting season. It further said that the MoA is working with FAO to avail tractors and maize seeds to farmers.
It further discloses an increase in the prices of meat products as breeders still struggled to import livestock into the country from neighboring countries due to border closures.