20 January 2014

Liberia: Lip Service to Agriculture - Women Farmers Lament Liberia Neglect

Totoya — A group of rural women farmers under the banner "Arise and Shine" have launched an agriculture program in Totoya, Bong County.

The group comprise of over one hundred individual rural women farmers engaged in growing several agriculture products including rice, corn, pepper, bitter-boy, cassava amongst others.

Currently with support from several partners, including the USAID Food and Enterprise Development FED and Wienco Liberia Limited, the individual farmers were able to acquire training, and partner with these institutions to get their agriculture process booming and sold at an affordable cost. Something the women say is greatly benefiting them.

"With assistance from FED and Wienco Liberia Limited, today we are self-sufficient and encouraged to engage in agriculture," says Harriet Lawayhead of the Arise and Shine women agriculture group.

Madam Laway says the organizations have over the years help to train rural farmers and are also engaged in purchasing their products, providing them with fertilizers and agriculture education on land cultivation, crops processing amongst others.

Since 2010 she says the organization has been struggling to cultivate large farmland and to have the products sold on the market. She said most women in rural Liberia are engaged in farming are faced with constraint as they are to pay huge sums of money to their male counterparts to brush their land. She named the issue of equipment as a major hindrance to the planting of large farmlands.

"Most of the women used their bare hands to cultivate the soil and carry out agriculture activities, there is no machine here" said Madam Laway.

According to her the Arise and Shine women agriculture organization is yet to be assisted by government through the Ministry of Agriculture.

"This farm is right on the road, not a day agriculture ministry people will stop by to see what we are doing", she pointed out.

She is engaged in lowland farming using her hand to cultivate and there is no power-tiller. According to her there have been changes since she started working with FED and Wienco Liberia Limited they have provided business training and maintenance of product, water management and weed.

Farming as a business

Madam Laway said 10.5 acres of land has been planted with rice and has spent over two thousand United States dollars to have the land cultivated and other processes conducted.

"I expect about 6-thousand USD in returned, this farming is a business and that's why I engaged myself in farming" she said.

She also disclosed that there is an increase in this year's product as a result of support from organizations like the FED and Wienco Liberia Limited

According to her Narracka 19 rice seed are sold to an organization and others farmers as a means of generating income. She has been processing and multiplying agriculture products.

Madam Lawson said the rice process has helped her a lot and she now has a Agra business and has also supported other women's group including willing women agriculture group in Bong County.

Support from USAID-FED

However, the Agri-business specialist at USAID Food and Enterprise Development (FED) David Benafel has pledged the entity continue support to providing the needed assistance to Liberian farmers. Said Mr. Benafel: "FED assistance to farmers in Liberia is aimed at standardizing farming activities."

He disclosed that the FED will build ten rice processing plants and six ware houses for farmers in the four counties the entity is operating including Nimba, Grand Bassa, Bong and Lofa.

As part of the entity support "FED will ensure that farmers in these counties have access to agriculture implements such as cutlasses, hoes shoves and fertilizers, power-tailors amongst other farming implements", Mr.Benafel mentioned

He said currently FED is working with four community colleges, including Booker Washington Institute in Kakata, Margibi County to provide vocational agriculture education to youths in the country. Mr. Benafel said FED is also supporting farmers in the areas of cassava, vegetable and livestock production in the four counties.

He made a statement Saturday during harvest of several plots of rice by Arise and Shine lowland rice farm in Bong County he assured that his organization will continue supporting local farmers to engage in agricultural activities.

"FED is working with several local buyers in the counties, including the Commerce Ministry to have the farmers' rice sold since they can find it very difficult to sale the rice" Mr. Benafel asserted.

He told members of Rise and Shine that there continues to unite can bring about great achievement in the initiative that they have engaged in and cautioned them to press forward.

He said this year FED will trained 300 groups in rice production, 20 farmers in lowland rice in Lofa in Lofa, Bong, Nimba and Grand Bassa counties. According to Benafel, food security is a top priority in Liberia, and as such FED will also support all forms of agriculture be it cassava vegetable livestock, and more.

Benafel said the organization will also provide power trailers to farmers, ten rice processing plants, storage, warehouses, marketing of country rice and local rice.

Wienco Liberia Limited Support Rural Farmers

At the official opening of the Arise and Shine agriculture project, Wienco Liberia Limited General Manager, Wout Van Koppen challenged the farmers to continue venturing in agriculture as a means of ensuring food security in Liberia.

Koppen says the organization will keep encouraging farmers in the agriculture sector by educating them on farming, providing assistance in the best possible way to empower farmers.

Currently Wienco Liberia Limited is providing loans, fertilizers to farmers and sponsoring them to establish a business center aimed at selling their products.

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