GBENDI, Nimba – Members of the Dokondan Farmers’ Cooperative in Gbendi, Nimba were all filled with joy over the weekend after they received a tractor worth over US$50,000 from a USAID-funded project.
The tractor was provided through the Liberia Agribusiness Development Activity project. It is being implemented by Cultivating New Frontier in Agriculture with a focus on establishing partnerships with agro-dealers, cooperatives, and aggregators, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture.
The brief handover ceremony brought together members of the cooperative, the USAID mission chief, CNFA’s chief of party, the Ministry of Agriculture coordinator assigned in Nimba, local county authorities, and the district’s representative, Prince O. S. Tokpah.
During the ceremony, USAID’s mission chief, Maurice Ogutu, advised the cooperative’s management to deploy trained staff to handle the equipment and manage it properly to increase its lifespan.
“If you don’t have trained staff to take care of the equipment, and regular maintenance is not done, I am sorry that the equipment will not last long,” he said.
Ogutu informed the gathering that the equipment was meant to help mechanize the farming done by the cooperative in order to increase their productivity.
“This will enable you grow rice and other crops, not only to feed your families, but to also sell to generate income that can be used to improve their living standards – sending your children to school, improving you dwelling areas, and also providing healthcare for your family,” he said.
Ogutu acknowledged the gains made by the cooperative for the past 45 years of their existence, and urged them to continue providing the needed services of their members. He said within three months, the cooperative would also be presented a USAID-funded rice mill.
“You are a compelling example of people who can take destiny in their own hands to improve their lives and their communities,” he said.
Samuel Kerlea, the county agriculture coordinator for the Ministry of Agriculture in Nimba, assured donors that the cooperative is capable of handling the equipment because they have trained staff to operate the tractor.
The district representative, Tokpah, described the gesture from CNFA/LADA as a ‘job well done.’ He said the initiative was a major boost for Liberia’s agriculture sector.
Tokpa called on the Ministry of Agriculture to reawaken the sector and strengthen farmers’ capacity in moving into industrialized farming. He commented the National Legislature’s collaboration with the newly elected president in ensuring that major support will be given to boost agricultural activities in the country.
Also commenting during the ceremony was CNFA/LADA’s chief of party, William van Campen, who assured members of the cooperative that his institution was committed to working to help them boost their activities.
He said the tractor donation is “just one step forward” to the development of the cooperative. He noted that cooperatives are an important arm to nation building and in the lives of the members they serve.
CNFA/LADA’s Nimba county coordinator, Thomas L. Gayeplu, said there have been several agreements reached with CNFA/LADA and the cooperative. He mentioned a loan arrangement to purchase 200-metric tons of paddy rice worth US$125,000, technical support for the development of grant proposals, training of 298 farmers of the cooperative in business management and post-harvest handling, and a grant proposal of US$133,580 that was partly used to purchase the tractor. The cooperative paid for 47 percent of the cost while CNFA/LADA funded the remaining 53 percent.
“This [is] to tell you that we have series of activities with Dokondan Farmers’ Cooperative dating back [to] 2016,” he added. “So, we want to say thank you to our donors for this brand-new tractor that has been donated to [the] Dokondan Farmers’ Cooperative today.”
The cooperative’s chairperson, Jefferson Tokpah, thanked the donors for the equipment and assured them of proper usage.
Featured photo by Arrington Ballah