The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has begun importing varieties of environmentally-friendly fertilizers to improve the crop yields of smallholder farmers across the country.
The fertilizer, according to a press release from the MOA, comes at a time when Liberian smallholder farmers have been struggling to get fertillzers due to scarcity or unavailability as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that sparked off borders closures among neighboring countries.
The release further explained that Agriculture Minister, Jeanine Milly Cooper, has instructed the relevant departments at the MOA to immediately distribute the fertilizers to smallholder farmers through the county agriculture officers assigned at the various MOA sub-offices in the counties.
“No time to waste for any bureaucratic bottleneck for the free distribution as farmers need them right now to plant more and implement the vision of President George Manneh Weah for direct support to farmers”, Minister Cooper stated in the MOA release.
President Weah since he took over the leadership of the country in separate annual addresses promised to make agriculture a priority in order to diversify the economy and to improve the lives of smallholder farmers who depend primarily on agriculture.
But whether the President’s promise for agriculture will make any difference is something that people will have to think about. Under his administration, the budget for agriculture still remains low at two percent of the total national budget with additional funding from external sources as loans or grants.
Minister Cooper in a statement on the recent celebration of World Food Day in Liberia told government partners that the allotment for agriculture was very low and that the partners’ contributions are the only mean to ensuring assistance to farmers to improve productivity.
The release said that smallholder farmers particularly those engaged in the production of vegetables will have access to the fertilizers at the moment to improve their vegetable crops yield.
“As vegetable farming season begins in conformity with Liberia’s crops planting calendar, the newly arrived fertilizers are suitable for all types of vegetables planting, the MOA release said.
According to the release about three thousand bags of the fertilizers have landed in MOA’s custody and the remaining is in shipment expected to dock by month end.
The MOA procured those vital agro inputs through the Contingency Emergency Response Component (CERC), a fund under its supervised donor-funded Smallholder Agriculture Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P) within the Program Management Unit, the release said.
The release further said that the procurement of those fertilizers is a key component in the MOA’s COVID-19 Food Security, Nutrition and Livelihood Plan developed in April this year.
According to the release, the plan was immediately endorsed by the Rome-based International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the World Bank to mitigate the COVID-19 impacts and shocks on the farming community and food security.
“Since April, Liberian farmers have been struggling to acquire fertilizers in many parts of the country after Liberia’s three sisterly countries shut their borders to contain the COVID-19 virus spread, the release stated.
La Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea were the main destinations from where 80% of fertilizers’ imports came prior to the borders’ blackout.
Fertilizers are totally out of stocks in Liberia’s central, northern and western regions. The southeastern aegis has limited supplies -if seen -but with high prices making them unaffordable for farmers,” the release concluded.