The Ministry of Finance and the World Bank have signed two financing agreements amounting to a total of US$50 both in the form of grants.
The two agreements are worth US$30 million for the Rural Economic Transformation Project (RETRAP) and US$20 million for the Recovery of Economic Activity for Liberian Informal Sector Employment (REALISE).
The RETRAP project, which is receiving additional financing from the World Bank, seeks to improve productivity and market access for smallholder farmers and agri-enterprises in selected food value chains, especially rice.
This financing, which comes from the Crisis Response Window — Early Response Financing from the International Development Association (IDA), intends to benefit an additional 36,000 households, increasing the total number of beneficiary households by 60%, from 60,000 to 96,000.
The REALISE project, which also seeks additional financing, seeks to provide cash transfers to the poorest and most vulnerable households in Liberia to cushion the impacts of the increase in the cost of food due to global shocks.
The World Bank Country Manager Khwima Nthara noted that the reason for the financing packages are intended to help Liberia which is heavily dependent on food imports to be self-sufficient and to cater to the most vulnerable people,
“So in responding to the increase in the cost of food, the government is investing in increasing domestic production of food, but the results of such interventions may take a year or two to start showing,” Nthara added.
“At the same time, there are people today who are very poor and vulnerable and cannot afford food that is now more expensive. The second additional financing is meant to help such poor people have access to food by giving them cash transfers,” he added.
Bulk of the fund, according to the World Bank, will go toward supporting the production of rice, which is Liberia’s main staple, as well as other food crops.
Its intent is to incentivize commercial rice for farmers to access agri-inputs to cultivate 24,000 hectares of rice and 12,000 hectares of other crops, including the purchase and distribution of climate-resilient seeds and fertilizers, as well as post-heavy equipment, and means of transportation.
The agreements seek to boost government efforts to increase domestic food production, reduce dependence on imports such as supporting the production of rice, Liberia's main staple food and other food crops such as legumes and vegetables.
The Minister of Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah, noted that the agreements respond to the country’s development needs in real time.
Tweah added that the additional financing is meant to start up with other available resources to scale up rice production and redefine the dynamics.
However, he said this will also improve and transform, not just the agriculture sectors, but rice production in agriculture driven by Liberians farmers.
"In order to grow rice, we need to address the land issues, raise startup capital, and ask the hard question, why banks are hesitant to credit cash to agriculture farmers and the huge interest rate on borrowing loans," he added.