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Gov’t Enhances Local Farmers Capacity Through Grants …Tours Grantees’ Facilities

    By Bill W. Cooper
    At least twenty-two smallholder farmer groups and agribusinesses across six counties have benefitted from matching grants from the government of Liberia under its Liberia Agriculture Commercialization Fund (LACF).

    Implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), the grant valued at US$2 million is intended to enable smallholder farmers, agricultural producers, cooperatives, and processors to commercialize and improve productivity in Liberia.

    It follows after the Agriculture Ministry recently approved 22 farmers, agricultural producers, and agribusinesses for grant assistance under its LACF in a meeting held in Monrovia.

    LACF is the body that manages the matching grant component of the Rural Economic Transformation Project (RETRAP) and the Smallholder Agriculture Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P) of the MoA.

    While the STAR-Project focuses on addressing critical market failures limiting the development of the rice, oil palm, and horticulture value chains.

    Additionally, the project is also reaching its objectives of increasing agricultural productivity and promoting smallholder commercialization by facilitating private sector investment in selected value chains and by fostering productive links between smallholder farmers and selected agribusiness firms through a business climate lens.

    Working with the MoA through the Project Implementation Unit (PIU), the LACF ensures the effective delivery of the grants to beneficiaries with viable and profitable business plans which demonstrate the capacity to match the grant through assets and cash, as well as being involved with value chains or crops, cassava, oil palm, rice, rubber, piggery, poultry, and vegetables.

    With support from the World Bank (WB) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), each beneficiary of the disbursement exercise received between US$15,000 to US$ 200,000 as means of increasing agricultural productivity and commercialization.

    On a tour of six counties namely Bomi, Margibi, Bong, Nimba, Lofa and Grand Geedeh Counties to verify the utilization of the grants on their farms and processing facilities, the grantees mainly smallholder agricultural producers and processors extolled the Liberian government and partners for the grants which they stressed will enable them in making Liberia food-sufficient.

    While on the tour, the STAR-P Team reached out to the 22 grantees across the six counties to ascertain as to how well they are utilizing the grant and other supports given them by the Liberian government.
    Upon our first start in Tubmanburg, District 1, Coleman Hill, Bomi County, Boston D. T. Devine of the Rural Community Developers Enterprise Incorporated (RCDEI) said, “I am grateful to have received from the Agriculture Ministry through the STAR-P US$32,750.”

    “Of that amount, US$20,300 was used on the mail; while US$11,500 was used to purchase the vehicle and US$950 to register and ensure it. But we have not received kind gestures from the project,” he said.

    Commenting on his business, Mr. Devine maintained, “Now, we have already planted and harvested on 46 acres of land for the past three years and also have plans to extend to 100 acres for palm because that is what we are producing.”

    “We are also trying to raise money to be able to save the FFB once it arrives but wants the project to still help in said direction. Now, we have 3 females and four males actively employed and taking salary regularly,” Devine stated.

    In Margibi County, the STAR-P Team also reached out to Agrogem Multipurpose Cooperative Society, a vegetable-production cooperative in Dolo Town, where the head of the corporative, Alphonso Quamele thanked the government for the support in cash and kinds and assured to use the money for its intended purpose.

    “I just don’t know how to express how happy I am for the interventions of the government and partners. For now, we have received from STAR-P US$21,000, a truck, construction materials to build a warehouse, irrigation equipment, agro-chemicals, and some other farm tools and inputs,” he added.

    Earlier, the Value-Chain and Agribusiness Specialist of the STAR-P, Alexander Shiakeh, giving the purpose of the tour said his team is comprised of several other experts who are verifying matching grant utilization and providing project implementation support to grantees having benefited from the project.

    “Our mission on this tour is to verify the utilization of matching grants disburse to farmer groups and agribusinesses and engage in activities to support grantees for proper utilization including monitoring and evaluation specialist, agronomists, communication lead, agribusiness experts, and journalists,” he maintained.

    Mr. Shiakeh added, “The 15-day STAR-P Staff Tour which began Monday, 28 November 2022, also targets farms or production sites and processing facilities of the project grantees in Margibi, Bomi, Bong, Lofa, Nimba, and Grand Gedeh Counties, and this exercise will not be the last, but a continuous process.”

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