-- Freeman Kollie, a vegetable farmer who helps other farmers scale up beyond subsistence operations
Freeman Kollie, a graduate from the college of Agriculture and Forestry at the University of Liberia (UL) is developing 5 acres of land with vegetables to sustain his family as well as assisting several smallholder farmers with farm inputs to improve their crops production.
Located in Bong Mines community, Fuamah District, Bong County Kollie is growing vegetables and providing extension services to farmers with meager resources in four counties, including Bong, Nimba, Margibi and Montserrado.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer recently, Kollie stressed that agriculture is the way forward for the Liberian economy and so there is a need that more of the citizens invest in the sector.
"I graduated with skills in agriculture from the U.L in 2015 and, since then, I have gained self-employment in the agricultural sector," he said.
"There is a perception that many students graduating from the schools of agriculture in Liberia end up not venturing into the informal sector of agriculture. The expectations of the students are high and the government is doing nothing to empower them after graduation," Kollie added.
The UL agriculture graduate has 5 years of experience in working with non-governmental organizations (NGO) as an extension officer.
He said extension services are poor in Liberia, causing many smallholder farmers to continue farming at subsistence level.
According to him, government must improve on agriculture extension by allotting more money in the budget for agriculture so that more students acquiring knowledge in the field of agriculture can work as extension agents.
This farming season, Kollie has cultivated vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage and tomatoes that are of demand on the local market. According to him, agriculture is a profitable venture that Liberians need to prioritize.
Freeman has harvested some hot pepper, packaged in 25 kg bags for sale on the local market.
"I currently work with farmers in the targeted counties, providing them with seeds and fertilizers to improve their crops production. The supported farmers give me in return half of the produce for the assistance rendered them," he explained.
Kollie, 37, began assisting the farmers after his contract ended with an NGO in 2017 and has found it very rewarding. He said the agriculture sector has the potential to absorb more young people for employment but it is unfortunate that the youths lack interest.
"We can't continue to rely on food imports as a country every year. The youths must think about investing in the sector to enable us reduce food imports," he stated.
"I have acquired properties only by engaging in to agriculture and am now supporting my three children to obtain quality education. I have no worry for a job as long as I continue to till the soil," he added.
Despite, Kollie's achievements, he outlined some challenges confronting his farming venture which include lack of logistics to reach the several farmers benefiting his initiative. To address these challenges, he plans to set up an NGO to scale up the capacity he needs to assist other farmers through extension services.