-Promises transparent environment for more opportunities
The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Mogana Flomo, has launched the Liberia Cocoa Sector Improvement Programme (LICSIP) in Suacoco, Bong County. Dr. Flomo, in a short statement, called on beneficiaries, especially women to take seriously every opportunity that the programme would offer.
“Today is another great day for Liberians, especially those who are farmers. We [people of Liberia] are very happy to have Solidaridad launching this cocoa project today and we thank the EU for its support. Cocoa is a very important agricultural product that can be transformed into many things for our consumption purposes. So, those of you who are in the cocoa sector that this project has come to support, we will want you to make maximum use of this opportunity.
He added that the Ministry of Agriculture, under his leadership would work to ensure that a suitable environment for agricultural opportunities exists but he also noted that his team will embark on monitoring exercises to ensure transparency in all agricultural projects.
“Over the years, the agriculture sector, has received lot of money but just little has been realized. This time we are going to work with donors and project implementers to ensure that this time agriculture will not look like drama, where money is invested; we hear the news but people [implementers] make small farm and make big report, while the lives of the people remain the same. I promised, that I will not be an office minister. That means, I will be in the field, visiting more projects that different partners will be implementing,” said Minister Flomo.
Discussing the overview of LICSIP, Solidaridad West Africa’s Agribusiness Specialist, Eric Agyare, said: “The Liberia Cocoa Sector Improvement Program is a four year programme that seeks to create a vibrant, competitive and profitable economy driven by farmer organizations and private sector actors within a robust national regulatory and institutional framework. LISCIP is currently operating in Bong, Lofa and Nimba but has the potential of expanding to Gbarpolu, Grand Gedeh and River Gee, as more resources as it yields.”
Programme Intervention Areas
Agyare disclosed that LICSIP would focus on five areas within the country’s cocoa sector. Areas of focus he disclosed include; improved farm-level sustainable production and productivity, improved cocoa sector regulatory and institutional framework, capacity of sector governance structures enhanced, new employment for youth and women created along the value chain, vertical market integration as well as access and visibility of Liberia cocoa improved problem.
Moreover, he added that the key implementing strategy of LICSIP will be a robust infrastructure that Solidaridad has named the Centers for Cocoa Development (CCDs). He said, the CCDs will be where cocoa farmers will access agro-inputs, knowledge and technical expertise that will help farmers intensify and rehabilitate their farms and enhance productivity.
Echoing the same sentiment of her colleague, Solidaridad‘s International Cocoa Programme Coordinator, Suzan Yemidi, stressed that good national policies are key to revitalizing the country’s cocoa sector.
“We cannot implement LICSIP without our private industry and government partners. We are poised to support in developing appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks in close collaboration with the Liberia Agricultural Commodity Regulatory Authority (LACRA). We need supportive policies that promote quality production, diversification and intensification that are zero-deforestation tolerant,” said Yemidi.
Also, EU Ambassador to Liberia, Hélène Cavé, noted that land rights Acts and the issue of environmental sustainability of production have their role in the country’s agriculture development.
“For agriculture development to happen, farmers need to have certainty of land tenure. We welcome the commitment of the administration led by President Weah and we hope that a good Land Rights Act will finally see the light. Secondly, this programme will promote intensification of cocoa production in a way that is respectful of the environment and sustainable in the long run. This is because consumers around the world are increasingly concerned about the environmental footprint of the products they consume,” said Amb. Cavé.
She, however, added that LISCIP’s objective in a nutshell, is to help put Liberia put in the map again for sustainable cocoa production.
Moreover, the proxy for the Vice President of Liberia, George Nimely, described the launch of LICSIP as a critical first step toward bolstering cash yielding products in an attempt to grow the country’s foreign exchange earnings and also open up opportunities for agribusinesses which he said portends huge investment in job creation for Liberia’s youthful population.
LICSIP is a four year project that is primarily funded under the EU-Liberia Agriculture Program and is part of the 2014-2020 National Indicative Program (NIP) for the 11th European Development Fund. The program is expected to benefit 5,000 farmers. Solidaridad serves as second funder and implementer of the Liberia Cocoa Sector Improvement Program.
Cocoa farmers from Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties, thanked Solidaridad for its intervention program. Most farmers after the launch, said that they anticipate the named empowerment areas that LICSIP will focus.