PAYNESVILLE, Montserrado – Local Farmers are now poised to have access to quality agro-inputs to increase their production as the Agro-Inputs Dealer Association of Liberia is now officially launched.
The group, which comprises of dealers in agricultural inputs, is supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and the USAID-funded Feed the Future Liberia Agribusiness Development. It was launched last Thursday at the Paynesville Town Hall.
Making the official launch, Agriculture Minister Morris Zinnah said the Ministry would continue to play a facilitating role in enhancing the success of the association.
Those dealers, who provide inputs to farmers such as seeds and chemicals such as fertilizers, fungicides, and pesticides, play a little noticed but crucial role within the agriculture sector, Zinnah said.
“Agro-dealers [are] supposed to be the ones to educate the farmers on the proper usage of the inputs,” Zinnah said.
He stressed the importance of agro-inputs but said they can be harmful to human and cause more troubles to crops and animals if not properly applied.
He challenged the new group’s leadership to ensure that the ministry provides training for them on the roles they have to play in the sector.
“Agro inputs dealers provide market information,” he added. “If people don’t know the use of fertilizers or improved seeds, they wouldn’t use it.”
He stressed that the role of input dealers is to ensure that people are properly educated about the acceptability of their products, pricing, and quality.
Zinnah said, with the group’s work, it would now be easier to track and manage misused agriculture products.
He thanked USAID and LADA for their support to the agro-dealers, emphasizing the impact of partnerships between the government and its partners: “Government does not have all the resources, but the government can take the initiatives if you provide the right direction.”
While people may think that the Liberian soil is very rich, the agriculture minister said it still needs inputs to allow it to perform at its maximum potential.
Because of the heavy rains Liberia experiences, Zinnah said it causes the soil to lose much of its nutrients and “you need some fertilizers in order to improve the soil.” Additionally, inputs are also needed to prevent and control pests.
Also speaking at the event was Andrew Paygar, the deputy minister for the Small Business Administration at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, who communicated his ministry’s appreciation of the efforts of the agro-inputs dealers by providing small loans and business training.
“We think that this [is] very [important]. It will supplement our efforts, and together we all can work toward making our country self-sufficient in terms of food production,” he said.
Lately, the Commerce Ministry has embarked on a number of efforts to enhance farmers’ access to the market, including the establishment of the Liberian Marketplace at the Jorkpeh Town Market in Sinkor and the recent launch of the Farmers’ Market Day.
The Liberian Marketplace is essentially a showroom for Liberian-owned businesses to display their products, while the Farmers Market Day allows local farmers to showcase their produce on the market every first and third Saturday.
LADA’s Chief for Party, Daniel Gies, also expressed his support for the group of agro inputs dealers. He said it would allow them to better represent their own interest and facilitate dealing with the Ministry of Agriculture and importers in order to deliver better and higher quality inputs to farmers that are cheaper and more affordable.
Gies said LADA is working closely with the group to facilitate their goals.
“It is not our creation or program, but we decided to devote our money, and our time and our resources to this association so that they can better serve the Liberian farmers who are out there and lack access to affordable agro inputs,” he said.
The group’s new president, Rebecca Kalayi, said the launch of the association is the beginning of a journey of difficult tasks ahead.
However, Kalayi said with the support received so far from stakeholders, including the Agriculture and Commerce Ministries, the Agro-Inputs Dealer Association will achieve its goals of providing access and education on agro-inputs to farmers throughout the country.
She said her association would ensure that not only farmers have access to agro-inputs, but that quality inputs are provided and used properly at the right time.
“If we don’t tell them to apply at the given time, we will not get the yield,” she said. “If we don’t tell them also when to harvest after the application, it becomes a problem for us.”
With training acquired from LADA, she said agro inputs dealers also now have knowledge on the importance of proper storage for their inputs.
As part of her targets, Kalayi said she would ensure that with the help of the Ministry of Agriculture, every county will have a demonstration site so that inputs entering the country can be tested and farmers are trained to their usage before being supplied on the market.
As the new association gets underway, what remains a challenge to many farmers is the cost of inputs brought into the country.
Harriett Lawai, a local rice farmer, said the costs of agro-inputs in the country are still very high on the market.
But Kalayi countered that the costs of some inputs are high because of their costs from importers and duty fees for bringing it into the country.
She said her leadership would begin to strategize to gradually address the issues.
“If we get opportunities to import our own products, we will be able to get affordable [products] that will encourage the farmers to plant more,” she said.
She said such will also create an environment where farmers can take inputs and pay for them during post-harvest.
Another farmer in Nimba, Dorris George, expressed hope that the launch of the new organization would take the agricultural sector to a higher level. George said some failures of farmers in the past are hugely credited to using wrong inputs for their crops.
Featured photo by Gbatemah Senah