HDF Empowers Cassava Farmers

A local Non-governmental Organization, Human Development Foundation (HDF) has ended a three-day intensive workshop for executive members of the Cassava Value Chain Innovation Platform (IP) in Banana Farm, Senjeh, District, Bomi County.

Speaking at the closing ceremony, Sensee L. Sirleaf, Executive Director of HDF disclosed that the gathering was intended to incorporate executive members who were duly elected by the cassava farmers in Klay, Dewein and Senjeh Districts into the platform.

He said during the exercise, the farmers’ representatives on the platform acquired knowledge relative to their roles, responsibilities and how they can be structured as a group with a common goal. The head of HDF however, indicated that the Cassava Value Chain Innovation Platform (IP) is geared towards enhancing farmers’ capacities for increase in production with respect to adding value to their output.

Considering agriculture as a business, Mr. Sirleaf disclosed that the farmers were lectured on the functions of a business entity which begins with registrations, payment of tax clearance and others for profit maximization; because the platform will operate as such.

“The World Bank initiated the Innovation Platform (IP) because according to it, farmers remained poor due to the fact that they lack the innovation, as such, researchers, extensionists, farmers as well as processors, nutritionists and others are transporters, policy makers input suppliers and marketers make up the platform so that they can operate as a group bringing different ideas together,” he added.

He then reiterated that the World Bank is funding the project through the Ministry of Agriculture under the West African Agriculture Productivity Program (WAAPP) and that his organization is implementing the project for Welt Hungerhilfe (WHH), formerly the German Agro Action (GAA).

Due to donors’ support, the Director pointed said that thirty hectares of cassava farm has been established in the three districts where the project is gaining momentum as evident by Bomi County leading cassava cultivation in eight counties in Liberia as per Ministry of Agriculture’s recent statistics on cassava production in the country.

Mr. Sirleaf said they have achieved plus because of the adoption of the modern method of cassava cultivation which he referred to as building of mounds and ridges by the agricultural extensionists working with farmers in the field.

“Our challenge now is that the only processing site which is in Banana Farm has low capacity which can not cope with the volume of output,” Mr. Sirleaf said. Mr. Sirleaf then encouraged the farmers to rise up to the challenge because Mary’s Meals has promised to sign a contract for the supply of twenty metric tons of Bomi Gari every month for its school feeding program.

For his parts, William S. Marshall, team leader of Welt Hunger Hilfe (WHH) stressed that the empowerment of the executives was cardinal to the operations of the platform. The team leader Marshall also explained to the farmers the concept of small skills business operations so that they can be prepared to assume responsibility of the platform. “I envisaged a stronger platform where businesses will emerge,” he stated.

He however challenged the cassava farmers to come together as a group as an opportunity for a micro-loan with a minimum interest rate as well as village saving loan was in sight. He urged them to abide by all business procedures to qualify them for the loan.

Senjeh District Commissioner, James K. Tarpeh, said the project has been extended to other villages and towns in his district. “We are delighted that through the support from donors and coupled with the level of engagements with our farmers by the Human Development Foundation (HDF), Bomi County now led- platform is highly commendable,” he among other things concluded.