More than one hundred farmers in David Selma Town and Kpadeh Village in Voinjama District, Lofa County are threatened with legal action by the local Village Savings Loan Association since many of those who credited money for farming activities are unable to repay.
The farmers are frustrated – needless to say – particularly because they took loans to increase their farms over the last year, which yielded bountiful rice harvests. However, many tons of harvested rice are stuck on the farms in Lofa with no one to buy them.
Local farmer Acquoi Beyan, who owns a 75-acre rice farm, told the Daily Observer that farmers have not been able to repay their loans because there are no buyers for the hundreds of tons of rice already harvested.
“Many of us took huge amounts of money in loans to prepare the farms and now we are worried because we do not have people to buy our rice to get the money to repay,” Beyan said.
He said the situation is discouraging them because in addition to being unable to repay their loans, whatever legal action that awaits them could cripple their collective efforts to meaningfully contribute to food security in Liberia.
“I borrowed Ld150, 000 from the Village Savings Loan to enlarge my farm because I was encouraged by Mr. John Selma, a lead farmer, to produce more rice because it is time for Liberians to get involved in agriculture and be able to feed the nation,” he said.
Beyan said it would be helpful if the Ministry of Agriculture and its partners can come to their rescue to purchase the huge quantity of rice still stocked on the farms and warehouses in these and other villages.
He said farmer Melvin Kokloe, who cultivated a large rice farm, is very troubled and worried about what he must do, as he faces legal action from the Village Savings Club.
Beyan said Kokloe is the head of 150 farmers who increased their rice production during the last planting season, by borrowing huge sums of money from the Village Savings Club.
“Like many farmers in the region,” Beyan said, “Kokloe is a miserable man and does not know what to do.”
He said the only solution to the problem is for the Liberian government and partners to purchase the tons of paddy rice produced in the region to give farmers more hope to produce more rice to feed the nation.
Beyan, who has been farming for the last ten years, appealed to the Liberian government to come to their rescue.
“Another major concern is the lack of rice milling machine because if we have a milling machine we can produce the very rice that is imported into the country,” Beyan said.
“We were previously farming to feed ourselves until we were encouraged to make large farms. But now, after the harvests, the paddy rice is stocked up in warehouses and on the farms.
“We need to process the paddy rice into bags and others and this is done presently through a system in which the milling operator takes a portion of what he mills,” Beyan said.
“We need immediate intervention to help us settle the problem on our farms by having well meaning Liberians and the Ministry of Agriculture and partners to come to their rescue,” he said.
When the Ministry of Agriculture was contacted, an official who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak for the ministry said MOA is dispatching a team from to Lofa County to assess the situation.