European Union (EU) representatives and the officials of global network organization Solidaridad have signed a grant worth five million Euros in Monrovia to facilitate the implementation of a new program in the cocoa sector called Cocoa Value Chain Development Program (COVADEP) over the next four years.
The implementing entity Solidaridad which is already undertaking the Liberia Cocoa Sector Improvement Program (LICSIP) in Bong, Nimba and Lofa Counties, will now expand its cocoa program to Grand Gedeh and River Gee Counties through COVADEP this year.
The signing at Solidaridad's office witnessed by Liberian officials in the agriculture sector came over the weekend after the organization was awarded the grant in 2019 worth 5m euros, out of which the EU provides 4m Euros and Solidaridad provides 1m Euros to implement COVADEP.
The program aims at reducing poverty through increased resilience of the cocoa sector and improve cocoa farmers' livelihoods and food security.
During the signing, Mr. Isaac Gyamfi, Solidaridad West Africa Regional Director says COVADEP must bring Liberia's cocoa to another level that all can be proud of in terms of its contribution to national development, the livelihood of the people who are in the communities growing cocoa.
He says for the four years that Solidaridad has been in Liberia, the modest work that it has done in both cocoa and oil palm speaks tons in terms of the organization's commitment to ensuring impactful programs and projects on the ground.
Mr. Gyamfi says he is aware that the Government of Liberia has huge agri sector transformation agenda, adding that Solidaridad wants its contribution by way of facilitating an effective and impactful program on the ground to feed ultimately into and transform Liberia's agriculture sector.
"Africa needs its agriculture to transform, there is no question about it. We cannot feed ourselves and the world if we continue what I describe as mediocre agriculture. and that is what our continent has seen over the years," he says.
Mr. Gyamfi notes that it's time that Africa moves from those small productions system, high transaction cost, inefficient markets and inefficient agronomic practices to a very advanced stage where technology and innovation are allowed to drive change in the sector.
Also speaking at the signing ceremony, Mr. Ivan Borisavjevic, Team Leader, Resilience of European Union assures the EU's commitment to the rural development sector in Liberia in trying to support the rural population.
Earlier, Solidaridad Liberia Acting Country Representative Mr. J. Cyrus Saygbe says the [initial cocoa program] LICSIP was in three counties - Lofa, Bong and Nimba, but through COVADEP, Solidaridad is moving to the southeast.
He notes that the difference between the two programs is that COVADEP brings on board value addition, working with local partners and companies that are involved in producing and processing cocoa into cocoa powder and cocoa chocolate in Liberia.
According to Mr. Saygbe, through COVADEP, Solidaridad will get young university graduates from agriculture colleges and university students involved in agriculture and take them through two years program to make them entrepreneurs after graduation.
As a means of creating job opportunities for them, he adds that the young people will be trained in cocoa related intervention that will help them to have incentives added to get them ready to serve the local market.
Concerning road connectivity challenges in the southeast, Mr. Saygbe notes that Solidaridad will drive a lot of the interventions during the dry season because it cannot leave out the other parts of Liberia due to deplorable road conditions there.
"Now is the dry season, we [are] going to make sure that we have a lot of the interventions roll out in those counties so that when the rain starts, we start now to nurture and see what is happening," he says.
For his part, Mr. Boima Bafaie, Solidaridad Liberia Cocoa Program Manager explains that the EU provides 4m Euros while Solidaridad, the implementor provides 1m for the implementation of COVADEP which goes for four years.
He discloses that the new program targets 3000 farmers in expansion of the centers for cocoa development (CCDs) in addition to the three existing counties - Nimba, Bong and Lofa.
Mr. Bafaie notes that this will involve a setup of additional ten centers for cocoa development as one stop shop for small and medium enterprises to drive production and improvement within the supply chain of the private companies and producer organizations.
Mr. Bafaie adds that the CCDs will be supported with capacity to develop sustained production, diversification, rehabilitation support and marketing services to farmers.By Winston W. Parley