Access to loans still remains a serious challenge for many Liberian farmers as commercial banks in the country are not willing to lend farmers money. This is due to the fact that many farmers lack adequate collateral to be considered bankable.
To ensure that many farmers have access to loan to expand and increase production, President George M. Weah has announced a US$16 million grant from the World Bank to support smallholder farmers.
According to the Liberian President, the funding will be made available through the commercial banks to be given as loans to farmers at a reasonable interest rate.
The President made the pronouncement on Friday, February 12, 2021, when he launched this year’s National Agriculture Fair at the Central Agriculture Research Institution (CARI), in Suakoko, Bong County.
He said that farmers who are primarily engaged in to rice, cocoa, oil palm and rubber are to receive the loans.
“In collaboration with our partner, the World Bank, I am pleased to announce that US$16 million funding has been made available to support private sector farming in Liberia, which includes small and large scale farming. I am therefore asking the Ministry of Agriculture to begin the process of providing a complete database of all farmers in the areas of rice, cocoa, oil palm and rubber,” he said.
President Weah has promised that agriculture is a priority for his administration. However, support for the sector is not enough, especially when it comes to allocation in the national budget. Most of the money for agriculture comes from external sources as loans or grants.
The President, during the National Agricultural Fair, said that a technical committee comprising the Ministry of Agriculture, Commerce, Finance, Ministry of State, Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency will work with the banks to ensure the selection of qualified farmers for the disbursement of the fund.
He used the occasion to call on lawmakers to make better appropriation in the national budget for agriculture, something he said he will be willing to affix his signature to.
During the fair, Nimba County District #2 Representative and chairperson on the House Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Prince O.S. Tokpa, outlined a number of issues confronting agriculture and expressed the urgent need to address these challenges to move the sector forward.
In response, President George Weah said budgetary allotment is done by the Legislature and that Representative Tokpah is in the best position to increase the budget for Agriculture.
“I’m glad that you are in support of mechanized farming, but you have to take the lead as budgetary appropriation is the responsibility of the lawmakers. Once you want us to increase the budget for agriculture, I will surely agree with you,” the President emphatically stated.
Representative Tokpa, in an exclusive interview with our reporter, promised to lobby with his colleagues to allot 10% of the country’s total national budget for agriculture in line with the Malabo Declaration for Food and Nutrition Security.
“The President has said that agriculture is a priority; so, as lawmakers, we will ensure that the sector is better supported to reduce poverty in the lives of farmers and make the country food secured,” said Rep. Tokpah.
Liberia as a nation is yet to align with the Malabo Declaration for Food and Nutrition Security that calls for every African Government to allot 10 percent in its national budget as support agriculture.
Meanwhile, the President of the National Rice Federation of Liberia (NRFL), Mohammed Kamara, has welcomed the initiative of the Liberian government to assist farmers.
He told the Daily Observer via mobile phone that Liberian farmers are happy about the opportunity, adding that it helps farmers to increase production.
“We are pleased with the initiative of the Government to provide money for farmers to improve production but would like to see this done in a timely manner,” Kamara said.
Kamara added that there is a need that the government sits with farmers, particularly with the leadership of the rice sector to derive means as to how the members of his sector would benefit from the amount announced and other opportunities that may come.