In early July, the World Food Programme (WFP), based on a request from the Government of Liberia, introduced the SHAD-P (Smallholders Agriculture Development Project) to Bong County. The purpose of this project is to assist 1,200 smallholder farmer households who are vulnerable to unforeseen hunger shocks strengthen their livelihoods and build resilience.
Saydee J.M. Lincoln, group head of the Gbuyah Swamp Project in Suakoko, Bong County, has had an uphill task in encouraging group members to work in unison and commit to longer hours. In mid-September, the WFP in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and the Cooperating Partner Samaritan’s Purse (SP) provided Saydee and his group the needed incentives of food commodities under the Food for Assets modality.
“What we need to work hard is motivation and encouragement and we see it right here in front of us with these rice, oil, and beans for assets creation. I heard the tools are en route. I pledge to you today that we will not fail you our supporters”, stated Saydee J.M. Lincoln.
Bong County Agriculture Coordinator, Kollie R. Nahn, told an attentive workshop audience in August that their county had to face the grim reality. “There is something serious we need to know about this county. I recently attended the validation workshop on the Comprehensive Food Security and Nutrition Survey (CFSNS) Report where it was made clear that Bong is not producing enough food like before. This is a wakeup call. So, the SHAD-P is timely”.
According to the Report, Liberian households (Bong County included) headed by individuals with little or no education are more vulnerable to food insecurity. The Report demonstrates a higher percentage (28%) of household heads with no form of education. Of these households, 24% were notably food insecure while 21% were moderately food insecure and 3% were severely food insecure.
WFP’s National Programme Policy Officer, Lonnie Herring, told the farmers that the nearly US$200 million spent yearly to import food can better be spent in Liberia if farmers can produce enough for their families and sell the surplus. You can do better and get some of the money that is sent overseas to buy rice. This county must not be left behind come 2030 –Zero hunger for all.”
Gbuyah Swamp Project’s farm manager, Nelson Batapaye, said the SHAD-P initiative meant moving forward, not backward. “This project is an enabler for self-sustainability in food production and there is no turning back, especially with this support from our government, WFP, and SP through our friends in Japan, there is no backsliding because with these lowland assets we have a future in agriculture.”
WFP’s monthly food assistance is increasingly demonstrating to be an essential strategy in encouraging vulnerable farming groups to not only work as a unified team but to also enable them to acquire new skills, improve on old methods and receive quality hand tools. Each month WFP and partners distribute up to 103 metric tons of rice, 4 metric tons of vegetable oil and 13 metric tons of beans. Interestingly, the rice given out to the farmers is the much sought-after nutritious Liberian country rice bought locally from other counties as part of WFP’s strategy to spend donor funds internally to empower local farmers.
Speaking to farmers in Bong County in mid-September during the launching exercise of food distribution, WFP’s Deputy Country Director, Asif Bhutto, expressed satisfaction over the SHAD-P effort aimed at buttressing efforts of rural small-scale producers. Mr Bhutto said: “We are bringing this project to you where you live because we are committed to you and to supporting the government’s development plans”. He extended heartfelt appreciation to the people and Government of Japan for providing the needed funds in support of rural dwellers.
Kendell Kauffeldt, Samaritan’s Purse Liberia Country Director, extended gratitude to the farmers, Japan, WFP and the Liberian Government. “I take my hat off to you the farmers in a special way today for the hard work.” He then urged them to continue working together and teaching their children to emulate them so that there is steady continuity in farming in Liberia that produces all the food it needs.
Randolph R. Kolleh, Special Assistant to Agriculture Minister Mogana S. Flomo, urged farmers to embrace the SHAD-P which he said was in line with government’s priorities. “Minister Flomo wants me to inform you that the government has prioritized rice as a major food crop because it is our staple. This project is in line with that plan which means that anything the government does, the result should improve your lives”.
Under the SHAD-P initiative, 15 communities comprising of 15 lowland ecologies are earmarked to benefit. In addition to resilience building, the SHAD-P also aims to organize farmers into viable agricultural producer groups and increase access to improved farming inputs and agro-processing technologies. Importantly, farmers are being assisted to rehabilitate and utilize productive arable lands including small-scale irrigation facilities for increased production of rice and other staple food crops.
Described as “highly relevant to Liberia’s rice value chain”, the SHAD-P also focuses on improved food production techniques, the supply of seeds, fertilizer, labour saving devices as well as curtailing post-harvest losses, and placing strong emphases on market supply linkages including processing, aggregating, branding.
Compelling market prospects exist for beneficiaries under the SHAD-P. Rice, the country’s main staple food, has an annual per capita consumption of 133 Kg per year, the highest in Africa [source: LNRDS (2012)] and contributes to 22% of the country’s agricultural GDP. This project aims at contributing to doubling rice production for beneficiaries by improving productivity through a value chain approach and thereby increasing Liberia’s global and regional competitiveness and envisions self-sufficiency and building a market that is self-sustaining locally.