Gbarnga, Bong County –Smallholder farmers have had tremendous results increasing their crop yields in the past year through new planting practices, improved seeds and technical support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Together with the War Affected Women Educational Empowerment Program (WAWEEP), USAID is working to improve food security in Liberia by promoting agriculture productivity and increasing the income of farmers.
A visit to two of USAID’s Food and Enterprise Development (FED) rice farming clusters in Melekie and Bellemu in Bong County showed that, unlike in the past when farmers could not grow enough rice to eat and sell on the local market, they are now selling their surplus to local rice processors and the World Food Program (WFP), increasing their incomes.
Lead Farmer, Musu Barto of the WAWEEP in Melekie, Bong County commended USAID for training them to become better farmers and entrepreneurs. USAID worked with the farmers to improve field layouts, planting and irrigation techniques, fertilizer usage and provided the farmers with tools, improved seeds and business development skills.
In 2012, the War Affected Women group got its first contract from the WFP to mill 30 metric tons of paddy rice, 80 percent of which came from other farmers. With training and increased production, “we have provided about 60 percent of the total rice purchased by WFP for us to mill”, she said.
WAWEEP is one of two local USAID supported rice processors that have been contracted by WFP to mill nearly 375 metric tons of paddy rice to aid victims of the ebola crisis and their families. USAID assistance to Fabrar Liberia has resulted in the procurement of Liberia’s first automated rice milling line, a doubling of their warehousing capacity and linked them directly with rice farmers. Through this link, Fabrar engages with farmers during production so that at harvest they purchase the rice at an agreed price and mill it for the local market or buyers like WFP. The farmers are also assured of a guaranteed buyer through the process.
According to WFP’s Country Coordinator for the Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative, James Legg, the milled rice that is bought locally from smallholder farmers’ organizations for the WFP School Feeding program is traditionally used as an incentive to keep adolescent girls in schools. However, at the height of the Ebola outbreak, the rice was diverted to the emergency response to fight the pandemic through the provision of food distribution to quarantined families and communities. Other rice stocks, such as that provided by Fabrar, will be used in continuing food distributions to families and communities that suffered losses due to Ebola.