Solidaridad West Africa has begun a three-week training PROGRAM with forty (40) community farmers in cocoa integrated crop and pest management (ICPM) and farmers’ field school methodology under the Liberia Cocoa Sector Improvement Program (LICSIP).
The training of trainers’ workshop for the community facilitators (farmers) from Bong, Nimba and Lofa counties respectively, according to Solidaridad Liberia’s Country Representative, MacArthur Pay-Bayee, is necessary to equip farmers with new agronomy skills.
“This agronomic training is essential for these farmers, as they suffer from depleted soils and lack the land-management knowledge necessary to farm productively and sustainably.
“We believe that when these farmers have such knowledge, they will be able to improve their farms size to the large one, thus increasing farm productivity, increasing output per farmer, thus improving farmers’ incomes and livelihoods,” he said.
He added: “By learning business skills and conservation agriculture, these farmers have moved from subsistence to commercial farming, thereby increasing the output of cocoa.”
The LICSIP Project, which will run for four years, is funded by the European Union (EU) and is in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture. The project seeks to create a vibrant, competitive and profitable cocoa economy, driven by farmers and private sector suppliers.
Mr. Bayee added that despite cocoa being an important cash-crop, the sector still remains largely underdeveloped. However he assured that LICSIP will provide farmers with support services that lead to farm intensification, rehabilitation of moribund farms, new plantings on fallow lands and generate extension services through the setup and establishment Centers for Cocoa Development (CCD).
“Immediately after the training, 100 farmers across the counties will receive cocoa seedlings for planting, and the centers for cocoa development hub will be created.
“The hub will bring farmers and buyers closer together by providing them access to market and production material as well as temporary loans. During the four-year project, it will support the new establishment of 3,000 hectares of cocoa and target 5,000 cocoa farmers in Bong, Nimba, Lofa, Grand Gedeh, Gbarpolu and River Gee counties,” he said.
Alberto Menghini, head of the corporation section at the EU, said the project, if fully implemented, will put Liberia on the map as one of Africa’s largest cocoa producers.
“The benefits are numerous. LICSIP will support farmers and address institutional policy challenges that will make the sector vibrant,” he said.
The European Union (EU) funds LICSIP, with co-funding from Solidaridad West Africa. It is a 4-year program (2018 – 2022), with an approved total funding of 5 million Euros. The program falls under the EU-Liberia Agriculture Program, which is part of the 2014-2020 National Indicative Programs (NIP) for the 11th European Development Fund. The program has been developed and agreed with the Liberian government and allocates €279m of EU funding to support good governance, energy, education, and agriculture.