More than 1,500 smallholder farmers in southeast Liberia are to benefit from improved cocoa seedlings as part of efforts to boost the efficient production of the commodity and improve farmers' livelihoods. Each farmer will receive a minimum of 400 seedlings.
Under the Cocoa Value Chain Development Program (COVADEP), Solidaridad in collaboration with private cocoa growers, will be supplying 600,000 hybrid cocoa seedlings to farmers at different locations in Grand Gedeh and River Gee counties at a small fee.
Since 2018, Solidaridad began training farmers in Liberia in good agricultural practices to help them improve their productivity. New cocoa farmers are supported to diversify their farms by also planting food crops such as cassava, plantain, banana and vegetables as they prepare their lands for cocoa cultivation.
Presently, about 40,000 smallholder farmers depend on cocoa production for income in Liberia. The COVADEP program seeks to improve the situation by supporting more farmers to venture into this business and equipping them with new knowledge and skills.
Ultimately, the program seeks to reduce poverty by increasing incomes, improving livelihoods and the resilience/competitiveness of the Liberia cocoa sector.
Marvin Samuel, program manager for COVADEP, said despite the vital role cocoa plays in the lives of smallholder farmers, incentives and opportunities for them to benefit from growing and selling cocoa beans were few.
"We are confident that our continuous support to the farmers and the sector would help increase farm productivity and eventually improve their incomes. This will reduce poverty and promote a vibrant cocoa sector," Marvin said.
Dr John S. Flomo, director general of the Liberia Agriculture Commodity Regulatory Agency (LACRA) said, it was important that stakeholders promote cocoa farming as a viable business venture. This, he noted, will encourage many farmers to expand their cocoa farms and boost the production of the commodity in the country for export.
He was delighted that Solidaridad was supporting the farmers with improved seedlings and capacity building to encourage them to produce more.
"I cannot wait to receive my share of the cocoa seedlings for planting. I look forward to applying the knowledge I have gained from the training to enhance my productivity and increase my income," said Josephine Toe, a 50-year-old farmer from Blewroken in River Gee.
Josephine is currently looking forward to harvesting some of the food crops she has planted on her farm. She intends to use the money that accrues from her sales to trade goods that are in demand in her community. The additional income, she said, will enable her to keep her children in school.
The Cocoa Value Chain Development Program, which is a four-year program, was launched in 2020 and is co-funded by the European Union and Solidaridad.
The program also seeks to develop and implement a cocoa sector public institution, regulatory and policy frameworks in Liberia. Additionally, it seeks to set up and promote Centres for Cocoa Development as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) within private sector cocoa institutions for sustained delivery of cocoa intensification, rehabilitation and diversification services to farmers/communities.
COVADEP will also promote cocoa bean value addition through investment incentives and the setup of incubation centres for entrepreneurship and promote market-oriented demand for sustainably produced and/or certified cocoa in Liberia.-Press release