MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE
THE LOWDOWN: Agriculture is no doubt the bedrock for Liberia’s future. President Sirleaf acknowledged recently that although the Liberian economy has depended on iron ore and rubber, recent drop in the prices of those commodities has prompted a return to the drawing board with agriculture seen as the alternative to salvaging the economy. The President is now advocating for investment that will diversify agriculture mainly in the areas of cocoa, coffee and oil palm sectors to replace the two traditional engines of the Liberian economy.
2016 HIGHS: During the course of the year under review, the Ministry of Agriculture wrapped up the first phase of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program in which it reported significant gains. While much remains to be seen the Ministry has been expressing confidence that the program is making substantive on ordinary Liberian farmers and that Liberia may be close to at least addressing its burning food security issues.
But challenges still linger, industry observers say emphasis is still very much required on focussing on how to help farmers improve their farming activities, increase productivity and create new ideas.
The Ministry also during the course of the year worked with development partners to harvest some 164 hectares of farm, during which foundation seeds were multiplied into certified rice seeds under a Ministry of Agriculture, WAAPP Liberia, Africa Rice and Dokodan Farmers’ Cooperative arrangement.
The Harvest which took place in Gbedin, Nimba County, signalled a new momentum for a Ministry that has been struggling to position itself as the key engine for Liberia’s transformation to an agro-based economy.
Also during the year, the Special Presidential Task Force on Agriculture and Agro-Processing yielded important results that are set to transform the agricultural sector through the development of the Liberia Agricultural Transformation Agenda (LATA). The high-level forum has helped to address major policy and regulatory problems and challenges that were limiting the development of agricultural value chains in Liberia.
As part of the initiative, Liberia now has an Electronic Registration (E-Registration) of farmers across the country after a pilot program for the first time, finally allowing MoA to know its customers.
During the pilot phase of the E-registration from March to July 2016 about 183,000 farmers in all 15 counties were registered and detailed information on each farmer is recorded (such as Name, Gender, County, District, Farm size and location, telephone number, marital status, areas of farming (cereal, tree, roots and tuber crops, legumes, livestock, vegetables, cereals, fisheries/aquaculture).
The Ministry has also instituted a Growth Enhancement Support (GES) Scheme for farmers. Through an Electronic Wallet (E-Wallet) Payment System, vouchers will be provided directly to farmers’ mobile phones. This will enable them to purchase inputs at a subsidized rate directly from agro-dealers with support from the African Development Bank. This will become fully operational in early 2017 planting season.
With technical and financial support from AfDB and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), MOA is working closely with MFDP and CBL to design and set up an incentive-based agricultural finance de-risking system to be known as the “Liberia Incentive-Based Risk Sharing for Agriculture Lending (LIRSAL)”.
This de-risking system will help in providing sustainable medium to long term customized financing products to farmers and private entrepreneurs across the prioritized agricultural value chains.
The Liberian National Legislature has positively responded to the Liberia Agricultural Transformation Agenda by approving the increment in MOA’s budget by almost 300% from US$3.0 million in the 2015/2016 Fiscal Year to US$8.9 in the 2016/2017 Fiscal Year (including US$3.6 million for salaries and compensations and US$4.9 million for field activities in the counties and US$400,000 for other agricultural related activities). If funds are made available this will significantly move the agriculture sector forward.
A plan for decentralizing MOA’s services has been prepared so that it can respond better to farmers’ needs. I the early part of 2017 the 15 counties will be subdivided and grouped into 3 to 5 regions for better monitoring and evaluation of the provision of agricultural extension and advisory services.
Rehabilitation of the Mesurado Fishing Pier is underway and the construction of the industrial offloading fisheries jetty is about 75% completed.
Construction of the new Bureau if National Fisheries (BNF Prefab office at Omega is 90% completed.
In the Rice Value Chain Sector, 300 metric tons of paddy rice and 240 metric tons of certified lowland seed rice and 20 metric tons of certified upland seeds have been multiplied and harvested by beneficiary farmers of some of our projects with a yield estimate of between 2-4 metric tons per hectare across farming communities, representing over 200% over baseline data of 0.9 to 1 metric ton per hectare. The certified seeds will be made available to farmers during the next planting season to boost their production.
In the Rubber Sector, under the management contract signed with MoA in 2014 by MARCO, 400 ha of recommended rubber stumps have been planted by 200 members of the Todee Farmers’ Multi-Purpose Cooperatives, Montserrado. All project farmers have either deed or tribal certificate to the land as a pre-condition for participation in the project.
In Margibi, where Salala Rubber Corporation has a MoU with MoA, 150 smallholder farmers in Weala, Margibi County have planted 200 ha of rubber.
In the Cocoa/Coffee Sector, about 3,000 cocoa/coffee farms have been geo-referenced in Bong, Nimba and Grand Gedeh for the first time in Liberia. This exercise has provided accurate information on cocoa plantations in Liberia. This will be up-scaled for all cocoa farms in the country.
Additionally, 15,000 hectares of cocoa/coffee have been rehabilitated by 7 cooperatives in Lofa County under GoL’s revitalization of cocoa and coffee plantations; they sold 422.9 MT of cocoa beans amounting to US$720,164.00 to LAADCO, a private partner.
In the Oil Palm Sector, significant progress has been made to set up a pilot Outgrower Scheme for 3,200 hectares within the GVL and Sime Darby concession areas. This new type of partnership has been approved by the Cabinet and will enable smallholders to develop their plantation sustainably and benefit from the opportunity of processing their oil for export markets.
In the Fisheries/Aquaculture Sector, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement (SFPA) between Liberia and the EU has been adopted by the European Union, providing an opportunity and a framework for European vessels to be licensed and fish in Liberian waters in a sustainable way.
This agreement has already generated the sum of EUR 715,500 (including EUR 357,500 in GoL General Account for Access Fee and EUR 357,500 in Special Fisheries Account for Fisheries Sectorial Support Fund. The draft Fisheries and Aquaculture Act has been completed and approved by the Cabinet and is due for submission to the National Legislation for review and ratification.
2016 LOWS: Food security remains a daunting challenge for the Sirleaf administration. But despite millions spent on the industry, the gains here have been slow. Criticisms have been overwhelming toward the lack of roads for farmers to transport their produce.
2017 OUTLOOK: Will this be the year that the Ministry finally begins engaging partners to begin to look into not just supporting small scale farming, but also to help Liberia graduate to mechanized farming that will reduce labour and increase yields?