By: Kruah Thompson
The agriculture sector of Liberia is set to benefit from a partnership agreement worth US$7.8 million between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and 11 prominent agriculture companies in the country.
The signing of the grant took place recently in a brief ceremony held at Atlantic Foods Company (AFC) on Marshall Road in Margibi County.
The primary objective of the collaboration is to enhance and strengthen Liberia’s agricultural sector by supporting production of key crops such as rice, oil palm, rubber, and other commodities.
USAID Liberia Deputy Mission Director, Rory Donohoe, said the initiative is part of USAID’s Agribusiness Incubator and Development activity, a five-year US$20 million program aimed at enhancing the commercial agricultural sector in Liberia.
The investment, according to her, leverages a total of $13.3 million in private capital from recipient companies.
Additionally, the Deputy Minister of Public Affairs at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism (MICAT) Jarlawa Topoe said Thursday at MICAT’s regular briefing that these investments aim to rejuvenate the agriculture sector under the leadership of President George Weah.
Minister Topoe added that the allocated funds from the USAID partnership will be disbursed among 11 agriculture companies, namely; AgroRetti, AL Global, Atlantic Foods Company, J-Palm Liberia, Kpailama, Libhana, Mahmonie, MicMork, Nimba Venture, SAP Liberia, and Wungko’s.
However, the agricultural sector in Liberia faces various challenges that impede its progress and advancement. One major obstacle is limited infrastructure, including inadequate roads, storage facilities, and irrigation systems.
The lack of infrastructure does not only restrict efficient transportation of agricultural products but also hampers productivity. As a result, farmers face difficulties in accessing markets and experience increased post-harvest losses.
Many still rely on traditional farming methods, which contribute to limited productivity levels. The lack of access to modern farming techniques, improved seeds, fertilizers, and mechanization tools further exacerbates the issue.
Additionally, the absence of sufficient extension services and knowledge transfer impedes farmers’ ability to adopt improved practices, hindering their productivity and efficiency.
Land tenure issues pose another hurdle in Liberia’s agricultural sector. Unclear land rights, overlapping claims, and disputes discourage long-term investments in agriculture. Without a well-functioning land administration system, farmers face insecurity and difficulties in accessing credit and making necessary investments, thereby hindering their agricultural activities.
Another pressing issue is limited access to finance for smallholder farmers. They struggle to access financial services and credit due to factors such as the lack of collateral, high-interest rates, and limited financial literacy. This poses significant barriers for farmers seeking loans to invest in agricultural activities, purchase equipment, and obtain necessary inputs.
Meanwhile, Minister Tonpo indicated that despite challenges faced by the sector, these investments represent a significant development for Liberia’s agricultural landscape, and that partnership between USAID and the 11 agriculture companies further contributes to the positive advancements in the sector, offering hope for its continued growth and improvement.
In December 2022, the World Bank approved financing of $30 million for the Rural Economic Transformation Project (RETRAP-AF), benefiting 36,000 households and increasing the total number of beneficiary households from 60,000 to 96,000.
Furthermore, in January 2022, the World Bank Liberia Country Office signed two financing agreements totaling $50 million with the Government of Liberia.
These funds were intended to strengthen efforts to increase domestic food production and reduce dependence on imports, with a focus on supporting the production of rice, legumes, and vegetables.
In addition to the World Bank’s investments, the African Development Bank Group approved $3 million in mixed financing for the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone project in Liberia. This financing includes a $2.92 million loan and an $80,000 grant sourced from the African Development Fund.
The project aims to build additional capacity along value chains, provide equipment for industrial skills training, and support project staff in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.
Moreover, in January 2023, the African Development Bank Group approved a dual-currency Trade Finance Line of Credit for the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID). This credit line, totaling $100 million, was to directly finance local corporates and be channeled through selected local banks for sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure, and transport.
The initiative benefited Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), local enterprises, cooperatives, and farmers in the West Africa region. Editing by Jonathan Browne