Solidaridad West Africa, EU Launch Program to Boom Liberia’s Cocoa Sector
Report by Augustine T. Tweh, [email protected]frontpageafricaonline.com
Suakoko, Bong County – Hundreds of Cocoa farmers from Bong, Nimba and Lofa counties over the weekend witnessed the official launch of Liberia Cocoa Sector improvement program (LICSIP) at the Cuttington University in Suakoko, Bong County.
The program was launched by Solidaridad West Africa (SWA) in collaboration with the European Union (EU) to provide support, strengthen and boost the cocoa sector by training farmers.
Giving the overview of the launch, Solidaridad agribusiness specialist, Eric Agyare said the project will revitalize the country’s cocoa sector by creating a vibrant, competitive and profitable cocoa economy driven by farmers’ cooperatives or associations and or private sector supply chains within a robust national regulatory and institutional framework.
Agyare also noted that the program will promote farmers’ access to production, support services that will lead to farm intensification, rehabilitation of moribund farms, new plantings of uncultivated lands and general extension services through the setup and operation of centers for cocoa development (CCDs).
He said cocoa companies, farmers’ organizations and private supply chain firms and businesses will operate the CCDs as small medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to provide sustained services.
“Solidaridad is implementing the ‘Transformation of the Cocoa supply chain in Liberia project under its practice for change funded program. The project seeks to contribute to food and nutrition security in Liberia by improving farmer households’ food access and availability through improved incomes from cocoa and productivity of food crops such as rice, plantain and cassava.” Agyare said.
Agyare said the project is a five-year plan worth € 5m (euros) grant funded by the EU Deleg in Liberia to enhance the production of cocoa in six of the 15 counties. Bong, Nimba and Lofa are core counties for the project while River Gee, Grand Gedeh and Gbarpolu Countie are secondary counties.
LICSIP implementation started in 2018 and it’s expected to end in 2022 with funding by the European Union delegation in Liberia.
Agyare said like many African countries, agriculture remains the bedrock of the Liberian economy, the sector is the second largest contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and can provide livelihood to over 60% of Liberia’s work force.
“Cocoa is one of Liberia’s major agricultural endowments yet its potential is under exploit. The production of cocoa accounts for 12.6% of the total employment within the agriculture sector and engages the estimated of thirty-thousand farmers.
As part of its contribution to the national economy, the production and trade of cocoa is face with many challenges that threaten the sustainability of the sector in Liberia”
Agyare adds: “incident of pest and diseases, old and unproductive tree stocks, aging farmers, whip extension and self-support service provision, inadequate infrastructures, non-existent institutional financing, poor organization of farmers, inadequate regulatory frame work and weak institutional capacity among others. These challenges and many others are contributing to the low probability and competitiveness to the Liberian cocoa sector”
He also averred that the development will provide job opportunities and increase the participation of women, youth and other vulnerable groups in the cocoa and palm oil supply chains.
Also speaking, EU Ambassador to Liberia, Hélène Cavé said the issue of land rights remains a paramount concern for farmers, emphasizing that it is her hope that the George Weah administration will pass into law the Land Rights Act before the currently before the 54th Legislature.
“For agriculture development to happen, farmers need to have certainty of land tenure. We welcome the commitments of the administration led by His Excellency President Weah and we hope that a good Land rights Act will finally see the light,” she said.
Ambassador Cavé added that cocoa has the potential to improve many smallholder cocoa farmers’ livelihoods in the country, asserting that there is no reason why Liberia should be behind other countries in the region and in the world when it comes to cocoa production.
She said the primary objective of the project is to put Liberia on the map again for sustainable cocoa production, hoping that by the end of the initiative chocolate will be produce with Liberian cocoa and sold in marketplaces in Europe and around the world.
“We are hoping that by the end of this project we’ll see chocolate produced with Liberian cocoa on the shelves of the Supermarkets in Europe and around the world. We are looking forward to reconvene here to taste some delicious Liberia-made chocolate,” Ambassador Cavé said.
At the same time, Liberia’s Agriculture Minister, Dr. Mogana Flomo expressed gratitude to Solidaridad and the European Union for their support f in buttressing the Pro-Poor Agenda Agriculture reform strategy.
“As a ministry, our role is to develop policies and regulations that will be able to help improve the agriculture sector. We also create the enabling environment for those who want to work in the sector to have a very good environment to do their work and that is what we commit ourselves to doing to ensure that those who want to give us support will get the support needed to undertake the different projects,” he said.
A participant and Cocoa farmer at the launch, James O. Cooper thanked Solidaridad and the European Union for the development.
“This new way of planting from Solidaridad has brought joy in our mind. So, we want to tell the Solidaridad family and the EU family and that of the government of Liberia a big thank you. And that the farmers should be supported and helped so that we can be able to support our children and send them to a very good school that Liberia will be better tomorrow,” he said.
Solidaridad West Africa (SWA) is a non-for-profit organization based in Accra, Ghana. Established in 2005, SWA is a part of the Solidaridad Network, an international civil society development organization operating on five continents through nine Regional Expertise Centers (RECs), with it network secretariat in the Netherlands.