Mr. William K. C. Kalawalawu, SAPEC coordinator, talking about the MOA assistance to local farmers.
The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) through the Smallholder Agricultural Productivity Enhancement and Commercialization (SAPEC) Project has said it recently assisted more than 40,000 farmers across Liberia with agricultural inputs to increase production and productivity.
The initiative is funded by the Global Agricultural Food Program (GAFSP) and the African Development Bank.
Project Coordinator of SAPEC, William Kawalawu, made the disclosure to this paper recently in an exclusive interview at a stakeholder workshop in Monrovia.
Kawalawu said that rice and cassava farmers in the fifteen counties received inputs such as 25kg bags of upland seed rice, 10kg bags of lowland seed rice, 10 bundles of cassava, 50kg bags of NPK fertilizer and 25kg bags of urea.
He stated that these items were provided to the smallholder farmers who made reasonable contributions of US$10 or US$5 per package.
"The farmers received the inputs by making a reasonable contribution that allows them to manifest some level of responsibility. This is a new model that we intend to introduce to local farmers, as we cannot expect them to always benefit from inputs freely. With the distribution of the inputs, we are hoping to expect a bumper harvest within the next few months," he said.
According to him, the MOA could not reach the initial target of 55,000 farmers, due to late delivery of the inputs. Hopefully, with additional funding, more farmers are to benefit ," he added.
He said members of the National Agro-Dealers Association of Liberia were hired by the MOA to deliver the inputs to the farmers.
"The Ministry aims at creating the enabling environment where the private sector can become empowered to directly make business with smallholder farmers. This platform brings together the input suppliers who work with agro-dealers in the various districts. We believe that without the government's support, local farmers still stand the chance of accessing farm inputs and tools to increase production," he stated.
However, Kawalawu said it is about time that Liberian farmers do away with receiving free farming materials to enable them to see agriculture as a business, adding that the government will continue to subsidize farmers on a cost share basis, and eventually pull out.
"This new model of farmers' assistance was piloted in three counties last year and farmers have shown a very receptive behavior. With more money from the government and donors, the majority of our farmers can access agricultural inputs," he implored.
He said although the recent inputs distribution only benefitted farmers in the rice and cassava value chains, farmers in other agricultural production are expected to also benefit from inputs delivery in the future.
Meanwhile, the MOA Coordinator disclosed that the SAPEC project is making tremendous progress in the country's agricultural sector since it was launched in 2013.
He named some of the achievements of the project as support to commercial vegetable farmers through improved practices and seeds, the provision of farming inputs, increasing processing opportunity for rice and cassava value chains and rehabilitating several farm to market roads in southeastern Liberia.
According to him, four sets of rice processing equipment with the capacity to produce 10 metric tons of rice daily will be arriving in the country next month - November, to be operated by farmers in Maryland, Grand Kru and River Gee counties.
"Currently, the Ministry has installed six cassava processing equipment in Montserrado, Bong, Grand Bassa and Bomi Counties to enhance processing opportunities that can improve the income of smallholder farmers," he added.
Mr. Kawalawu mentioned that the government is working harder to create the enabling environment for farmers to increase production to make the country self-sufficient in food.