The Ministry of Agriculture, through its Smallholder Agriculture Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P) has ended its engagements on organizational capacity building and knowledge management for Farmers’ Based Organizations (FBOs) cooperatives and individual businesses. STAR-P is funded by the World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
The meetings were held in regional clusters, and began in the west on August 21, 2022, with Bomi, Cape Mount and Gbarpolu counties. 30 participants attended the two days event that broadened their knowledge and understanding of agribusiness. The second meeting took place on August 26 & 27, 2022 in Ganta, Nimba County and brought together 35 participants from Lofa, Margibi and Nimba Counties.
Remarking at the Ganta meeting, the Operations Manager of STAR-P Stephen Marvie said the forum was necessary to prepare for the new norm of agriculture. “The end game is to encourage our farmers to develop the attitude of doing agriculture as a business. If we can achieve this, we are sure of developing several millionaires over a period”. He said.
He named the project’s County Focal Persons (CFPs) and Business Development Service Providers (BDSPs) in each county where the project is implemented as contact points for agriculture stakeholders to seek support and guidance in their quest to accelerate their agribusiness activities.
He added that beneficiaries of the matching grant available under the project, many of which participated in the meetings, will be able to properly apply for grants and other forms of support that are available under the project. “We have sent most of the grant proposals back for it to be rewritten because they lack some of the core requirements. Because the funds are here to benefit you, we want to avoid the situations where people get delayed or denied for simple issues that we are seeing, even though they are qualified to receive the grants. That is one of the reasons why we are holding these meetings”. Marvie said.
Several resource persons from the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI), Cooperative Development Agency (CDA), Farmers Union Network (FUN), the Liberia Business Association (LIBA) and the University of Liberia (UL) facilitated the meetings, speaking on various topics.
Deliberating on the topic “Farming as a Business for Smallholder Farmers” Dr. Samuel Gbehgbah Toe, Director of the Center for Strategic Policy and Research at the UL said the process must begin from changing the mindset and behavior of the farmers. “I have seen very rich farmers all over the world. There is no reason why we should always call ourselves poor farmers when we have the land, soil, better climate and now funds to make bigger and better farms. But we must first accept that this is possible, then work towards achieving it”, He said
Also presenting were Julius Y. Saye Kek-nel of the MOCI who took the participants through the basic issues of cooperate management. Archie Glay of FUN deliberated on basic financial management practices for farmers, while Elliott Gaye of the CDA expanded on Cooperative Governance and Structure.
Participants at both forums lauded the Ministry of Agriculture and development partners for what they termed “positive action to increase their income”.
The STAR Project focuses on the oil palm, rice and vegetable value chains, and is implemented in Bomi, Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh and Lofa counties. Other counties include Margibi, Maryland, Nimba and Sinoe.