MONROVIA – A Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), operating in Liberia as CERATH Development Organization Liberia has launched a four-year Cassava Transformation Project (CASTRAP).
CASTRAP is aimed at enhancing the competitiveness and regional integration of Liberia’s cassava sector through a value chain approach focusing on sustained production, value addition, entrepreneurship, and sustainable markets.
The project is also expected to strengthen the efficiency of actors engaged in the cassava value chain to improve access to inputs and markets, enhance production, processing and commercialization of cassava value chain that will be financially sustainable, and commercially viable, etc.
The group is in partnership with the Center for Enterprise Learning, Conservation Alliance Liberia, and Rural Integrated Center for Community Empowerment Liberia, respectively.
The CASTRAP US$5.2M project was launched recently in Monrovia with several government officials in attendance mainly from the Agro sector including international partners to Liberia, the EU, farmers and civil society organizations.
According to research Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is second to rice as the most important food crop in Liberia and plays a significant role in the farming system.
Cassava, together with sweet potato, it supplies the population with more than 25% of their daily caloric intake, according to ISHA report.
Besides the roots, the leaves are consumed extensively as vegetables in Liberia and the subregion.
The crop has not been able to attracts farmers’ attention as compare to Liberia’s stable food rice.
With the latest investment by CERATH into the sector to promote the crop, farmers in the beneficiaries communities are of the conviction that the crop could be utilized with it multipurpose used.
“I heard about the program but haven’t been able to reach them to know how we as farmers that are not in their can benefit too, with this news we can now be encouraged to make bigger cassava farms that can supply the whole country,” a Kelvin Daddyboy Collins told FrontPageAfrica.
Collins who is in Monrovia along with his colleagues to lobby for support for their farming process in Maryland, hoped that the project will attract the local farmers who don’t see Cassava as important crop.
“Many of us only make smaller farms for cassava for personal consumption and sometimes sell some because the Southeast is noted for cassava consumption, that’s why we sell some to get the cash, we want the group, CERATH, to see reason to reach out to all farmers in the county to add at least cassava farming to their farming process,” he pleaded.
The CASTRAP project which gears to transform cassava crop in Liberia was launched by the Deputy Minister of Agriculture for Planning and Development, Robert K. Fagan, Sr.
The project is Liberia’s component of the European Union-funded regional West Africa Competitiveness Programme (WACOMP).
Ms. Stefania Marrone, Team Leader for Infrastructure and Resilience, Delegation of the European Union to Liberia, at the launch asserted that she was delighted to represent the EU at the launch of the project.
She announced that the EU is the main donor of the CASTRAP’s project, with a contribution of US$5.2 million out of the total budget of US$6.5 million.
The Cassava Transformation project is a four-year programme that started mid-April 2021, and funded under the EU’s regional WACOMP, the EU envoy stated further.
“Our implementing partners were selected under a direct award, and we worked closely with Marketing Director, Mr. James Moore from the Ministry of Agriculture, representing the Government on the evaluation committee.” She said.
According to her, CASTRAP is being implemented in five counties in Liberia’s southeast, including Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Maryland, Grand Kru and Sinoe.
She said with CASTRAP, the EU wants to step up the agri-business-case approach, having its (EU) implementing partners seek out those beneficiaries or partners who engage in agriculture as a business.
She said the EU want to also and let its partners support these cassava producer groups, aggregators, processors, tradeswomen and men, markets, in short every single actor in the cassava value chain that we engage with, in being entrepreneurs.
She however extended gratitude to all partners who are engaged in the implementation of the project, including the Ministry of Agriculture, Central Agricultural Research Institute, Cooperative Development Agency, National Standards Laboratory of the Commerce, among others.
“We would like to keep this dynamic interaction as the project is being implemented. Referring to the pilot project consideration I made earlier, here is our message to all involved in the implementation of CASTRAP, not least our implementing partners: “The challenge is on”! She emphasized.
Speaking earlier, Paa Kofi Osei-Owusu, CERATH Director for West Africa, said the consortium led by CERATH Development Organization deemed it a great privilege to contribute to the cassava sector of Liberia particularly in the South East.
He noted that the cassava value chain continues to be a strategic avenue to boost regional trade, create employment, reduce rural poverty, and enhance food and nutrition security.
These potentials, according to Osei-Owusu, are still largely untapped and thus represent lost opportunities.
“It is thus essential that as stakeholders we innovate and collaborate to leverage the inherent potentials of this value chain. As the project’s name suggests, the consortium is seeking to contribute to the “transformation” of the South Eastern landscape using cassava as one pathway.
“When this transformation occurs, we would have built a better foundation for future generations. On this day that we launch this project, let us recognize that the time for change is now, and by working together we can achieve the change required.”
He concluded by thanking the European Union and other private sector partners for funding the project through the West Africa Competitiveness Programme (WACOMP).
For his part, Thomas Goba, Deputy Commerce Minister for Industry said the ministry cannot overemphasize the dividend that will be derived from this project.
He said the project tends to strengthen the efficiency of actors engaged in the cassava value chain to improve access to inputs, and markets.
According to him, CASTRAP will enhance the production, processing, and commercialization of the cassava value chain; the cassava value will be financially sustainable and commercially viable and policies, programs, and incentives to stimulate the commercialization of the cassava sector will be advocated for and implemented.
Goba continues that the ministry acknowledged the project as a significant endeavour, which is also in line with the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), especially as its impact will address the issues of job creation and economic enhancement.