MOUNT BARCLAY, Montserrado – Farmers in Margibi and Montserrado are expected to soon have better access to storage and preservation facilities for their produce, thanks to a USAID-sponsored US$235,000 grant to two agribusinesses.
The development comes amid the presentation of equipment to agribusinesses by the American government’s five-year Feed the Future Program funded by USAID, which is known as the Liberia Agribusiness Development Activity or LADA. Cultivating New Frontier in Agriculture or CNFA is implementing the project.
Life Focus Liberia Limited, a Liberian-owned vegetable aggregator in Mount Barclay, and Pape Natural Food Enterprise, a food processor located at Bright’s Farm in upper Margibi, respectively received a 30kva and a 25kva Perkins generator on Tuesday, to support their operations.
The generators were procured under the project’s Co-Investment Fund, a matching grant aimed at building the capacity of local agribusinesses.
Victor Ngorbu, LADA’s Co-Investment Fund manager, said the two organizations are benefitting from a grant of US$108,000 and US$127,000, respectively under a 50 percent cost-sharing arrangement. The organizations will contribute US$54,000 and US$63,500 of the total amounts, respectively. LADA has linked the beneficiaries to financial institutions to allow them to borrow money that would pay for the remaining 50 percent to match for the purchasing of the equipment.
Ngorbu said the generators would be followed by a list of other items, including refrigerated containers, packaging materials, and food processing machines. Life Focus Liberia Limited is building a new and larger storage facility in Mount Barclay, while Pape Natural Food Enterprise improving its processing plant in Margibi.
According to him, another food processor located on the Roberts field-Monrovia highway would also receive a generator on Monday.
The managing director for Pape Food Enterprise, Joe Togbah, has praised USAID for the initiative.
“Everything that LADA is doing for me will help me do what I do effectively,” he said.
He said currently, his company is into the processing of cassava and moringa, a tree used in herbal medicinal and health products.
Life Focus Liberia’s administrative manager, Gaye Suomie, also praised LADA for continuing to build his organization’s capacity.
“This is a dream come true because we have been anticipating that someone could bridge the gap for a storage facility,” Suomie said.
When fully established, he said the storage facility will help prevent the numerous losses his company and local farmers experience because goods are damaged when they cannot be sold immediately or properly stored.
Now that the challenge for storage is soon to be over, Suomie is appealing to LADA to help provide them with links to international markets. He said the competition currently in Liberia is high because of the small number of restaurants and hotels, which he said constitute their highest portion of their market.
One of the farmers his company works with, Fatu Keller, is a vegetable farmer in Chinese Farm, also located in Mount Barclay. She said selling her produce to Life Focus Liberia will relieve her of unnecessary losses.
A farming group of over 40 farmers in Montserrado are also looking forward to benefiting from the Mount Barclay storage facility. The head of the Farmer Empowerment Program told The Bush Chicken that the facility’s establishment is a “dawning of a new day.”
“Can you imagine how growing vegetables is cost intensive, not just in cash, but in time and effort,” Otis Mulbah explained.
LADA is not the only program aiding the farmers; the Ministry of Agriculture is also helping with technical support.
Theresea Thompson-Merriam, the district agriculture officer for Greater Montserrado, said the ministry has field technicians who provide training and serve as advisors to help the farmers increase their yield.
“We tell them about chemical applications and how to plant a particular crop,” Thompson-Merriam said.
As a district agriculture officer, she explained that part of her job is to link the farmers with aligning projects under the ministry.
Of the six farming groups in the Greater Montserrado agriculture district, she said four are concentrated into vegetable farming, while the remaining two deal with rice and cassava production.
Featured photo by Gbatemah Senah