More than a hundred smallholder farmers living around the forest range of Bomi County in Western Liberia were able to have direct market linkage for their 25 hectares of cassava farm through the intervention of the Liberia Forestry Sector Program (LFSP) sub-component 2.4 that is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture’s Project Management Unit.
According to a background statement of LFSP, the program strategically combines physical, institutional, and community responses for sustainable management of target landscapes.
As of the project, coordinator Saah A. David, Jr., said that the project’s approach integrates activities that include improving land use, planning, supporting existing and new protected areas, enhancing people’s livelihoods through community forestry, and placing agriculture on a more sustainable footing, to reduce pressure of deforestation.
David said that the Ministry of Agriculture’s (MoA) Project Management Unit will lead the agricultural component of the LFSP, which is an alternative for livelihood of people living around the forest.
“The question has been how to reduce pressure on the forest, while at the same time providing livelihood for those who live around the forest,” said Mr. David.
Additional information states that the Project Management Unit, West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAP), and the Smallholder Tree Crop Revitalization Support Project for food and tree crops in Bomi, Grand Gedeh and River Gee counties on the rice, cassava and cocoa value chains are implementing this sub-component of LFSP.
LFSP came about as a letter of intent that was signed between the Liberian and Norwegian governments in 2014. The project has six implementing government entities, which include Forestry Development Authority (FDA), MOA, Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), Land Authority (LA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS).
Cyrus Saygbe, LFSP’s agricultural component 2.4 National Project Coordinator of the Smallholder Agriculture Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization-Project (STAR-P), said that under the MOA-WAAP food crop component of the LFSP, the ministry’s Project Management Unit contracted the services of Compassion Fund, Inc., a local NGO to facilitate and work with the farmers to cultivate the 25 hectares of land through a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with landowners.
Saygbe added that the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture supplied improved cassava varieties to the farmers, followed by provision of tools and technical support, to ensure best practices of using standardized technology.
He further said through the vision of the new leadership of MOA to promote market linkages for smallholder farmers, PIU engaged Falama, Inc., a local agro-processing company that has agreed to buy harvested cassava tubers from farmers.
Falama Inc. CEO Angie Howard said that through the MoU with farmers, her company is building farmers’ technical capacities by training them into secondary processing of cassava products that include flour, starch, fufu, depah, farina, taioca and achéké.
Madam Howard expressed gratitude to MOA-PIU for linking her company to the farmers, because her company has difficulty in getting cassava from Bomi County.
The World Bank Senior Agricultural Specialist termed the partnership between Bomi County’s farmers and Falama Incorporated as a step in the right direction, to improve the livelihood of farmers in the region.
“The partnership agreement between Falama Incorporated and Bomi County’s cassava farmers serves as a reliable market outlet for farmers from Ballah Town, while the farmers also benefit from skills transfered in cassava value addition, technical assistance in the use of sustainable and modern cultivation technologies as well as assistance in accessing farming input.
“Falama Incorporated also has access to a reliable source of quality cassava to supply its plant’s processing needs,” the World Bank said in a statement.
The World Bank facilitates the funding mechanism through the PFMU of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. It directly supervises the implementation of the project on behalf of the Government of Norway.
MOA Deputy Director for Research and Extension, Sayma Syrenius Cephas, commended all parties that worked to improve the living condition of farmers by linking them to a reliable market.
“I am absolutely overwhelmed to see what is going out here. Never before have I seen such farm in Bomi County; every time we heard about Bomi, it was either food problem or little market but today you have demonstrated that you people are ready to give your county a new picture,” said Cephas. “Those who said that the people of Bomi County cannot farm, will now be the same people that will say that your county is a new area.”
One of the farmers, Bendu Kumeh, said that through LFSP’s agricultural component, she has acquired new skills which she said would remain with her forever. Kumeh added that the program has changed the way she thought about cooperatives.