In a bid to encourage local rice production in Liberia and ensure food security, the World Food Program (WFP) purchased 1,000 metric tons (about 20,000 bags) of seed rice from Dokokan Farmers Cooperative in Gbedin, Nimba County, on Friday, March 5.
The cost of the rice is estimated at over US$300,000 which, the WFP says, was made available by the United States Government and the foundation of American billionaire and humanitarian, Howard Buffet.
The Howard Buffet Foundation provided US$1.5 million for the program, while the US Government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) made available US$500,000 to be used strictly for the purchase of local rice in the country, out of a total contribution of US$3.5 million made available to the Liberia School Feeding Program in January.
The purchase was done under the WFP’s Purchase for Progress (P4P) program. The WFP also donated four rice mills to the local farmers cooperative and encouraged its members to increase their productivity.
United States Ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, attended the ceremony in Nimba County. Ina brief speech, she challenged local farmers to increase their productivity and yields in order to guarantee food security in the country.
According to Ambassador Greenfield, Liberia is so richly endowed with farmlands that its people need to cultivate to ensure food sufficiency.
She pledged her country’s commitment to helping ‘lift Liberia’ out of poverty, and said the P4P program was yet another collaboration demonstrating the strong will of the Liberian Government and international partners to work together, pooling resources for the benefit of the country, and, in this case, for the benefit of families and children in the country.
Ambassador Greenfield said although the WFP deserves the lion’s share of credit for the program, she was pleased by the generous donation the US had been able to provide in support of the programs including school feeding pilot program in Liberia.
In recognition of the success of the pilot programs, this year the US Government is contributing over US$10 million through the USAID and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was at the program in Gbedin, Nimba County, remarked: “The reactivation of the cooperatives in Gbedin is a step forward for food sufficiency in Nimba.” The President expressed the hope that there will soon be ‘made-in-Liberia’ rice on the local market.
The Liberian leader praised members of the Dokokan Farmers Cooperative for their hard work noting, “Thank you for being able to put Liberia way up.”
She thanked the country’s partners particularly WFP and the U.S. for empowering local farmers in the country. “This is one of the best projects that we have going in this country,” Madam Sirleaf noted.
In remarks, WFP Country Representative to Liberia, Louis Imbleau, acknowledged the Howard Buffet Foundation and the US Government for providing the money WFP is using to purchase the seed rice from the farmers.
He expressed his profound gratitude to President Sirleaf as well as Agriculture Minister Florence Chenoweth for managing the complex layers of the partnerships and providing the vital strategic leadership and guidance which, he said, are making the Liberia P4P pilot program the showpiece for P4P initiatives across the world.
Imbleau praised the Liberian Government for taking steps toward agricultural recovery of the rural economy, through the P4P program.
“These have been careful steps, but they have also been steps in the right direction and on the right road,” he noted.
The WFP-Liberia representative pointed out that the steps taken on the road to recovery in the agriculture sector of Liberia are worth commendation.
He lauded the strong partnership between the Ministry of Agriculture, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Ministry of Gender and Development, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and WFP under the joint program of food security and nutrition.
In her intervention, Agriculture Minister, Florence Chenoweth, encouraged the farmers to continue to produce sufficient rice for sale. She also told the farmers that President Sirleaf herself is a rice farmer.
The Minister thanked the US and Chinese governments for supporting the country's agriculture sector. “I am very happy that our cooperative society is coming back for the fact that the Gbedin Farmers Cooperative has begun to produce huge quantity of rice,” said the Minister. “This is only the beginning for agricultural development in Liberia,” she added.
The WFP is buying a 50-kilogram bag of seed rice from the cooperative for US$17 a bag and a 50-kilogram bag of milled rice from the cooperative for US$34.