— Contains cassava, rice, and other vegetables
By Robin Dopoe and David A. Yates
Over 10,000 rural young farmers, benefiting from the government of Liberia’s Youth Opportunity Project (YOP) across the country, have cultivated 851,000 acres of farmland, with crops such as cassava, rice, cucumber, and other vegetables.
Crops from the farmland were sold and brought in substantial income for the project beneficiaries who have begun reinvesting the profit back into large scale farming.
According to D. Zeogar Wilson, Minister of Youth and Sports, the project aims to improve access to income generation opportunities for targeted youth and strengthen the government’s capacity to implement its cash transfer program, as well as promoting agriculture at the grassroots level.
“The farmer empowerment component of this project is designed to encourage vulnerable youth in the rural part of the country to engage in agriculture in order to feed themselves and a means of livelihood.
“To make this happen, we provide each farmer group’s members labor subsidies of US$300, which is meant to encourage them to focus only on farming. Furthermore, we also provide them agricultural tools, seedlings, and modern farming techniques.
“During the implementation of the project, we talk to chiefs and elders of various towns and villages who provide us land to be used for the farm component of the project which is three years,” Min. Wilson said.
Minister Wilson also added the ministry and its project partners also provide technical supports to the farmers including business training, agro-processing machine, and market information to the farmers.
“The good news is that farmers keep all of the revenue generated from their farm products and reinvest the money into the farm. Currently, almost all of the farm groups have now gone back to their farm after cultivating it,” Min. Wilson added. “Matter of fact, they have even planned to go beyond the numbers of acres cultivated during the first period of the project.”
Min. Wilson further explained that since the start of the project three years ago, they have spent over US$1 million on the targeted beneficiaries who are engaged in farming and small businesses, as well as other young people who are being trained and prepared for employment.
“In round one, 3,436 youths from 129 communities were recruited and received US$527,537 as final labor subsidies in February 2019, which constitutes 95% payment success rate for round one. In round two, 3,577 new beneficiaries were recruited and received $536,550 as 50% of their labor subsidies in July 2019.
“As for the selection process, it is very transparent and it is done based on the individual poverty level. We use the lotteries process to get the total numbers of beneficiaries we need during each round of the project, but one will have to meet the criteria before entering the lotteries system,” the Minister added.
The Youth Opportunities Project, according to Min. Wilson, is a five-year program with a US$10 million loan from the World Bank that is implemented in four different components: pre-employment social support, household enterprises, and capacity and systems building and the productive public works and life skills support.