The Liberia Agriculture Commercialization Funds (LACF) Fund Advisory Committee (FAC) ended its first session with the approval of twenty-three grants for agribusinesses, including smallholder farmers and processors.
LACF is the agency managing the matching grant component of the Rural Economic Transformation Project (RETRAP) and the Smallholder Agriculture Transformation and Agro-industry Revitalization Project (STAR-P). Both projects are funded by the World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is funding some components of STAR-P. The projects are managed by a Project Execution Unit (PIU) of the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA). The approval was made at a meeting held in Monrovia.
The second component of both projects supports an enabling environment that promotes improved productivity, competition and market access through alliances. In collaboration with the MOA through the PIU, the LACF ensures the effective and efficient distribution of matching grants to agribusinesses, including smallholder farmers and processors with viable and profitable business plans that also demonstrate that they have the ability to match the grant through assets and cash, and are involved in any of the projects value chains or crops, including cassava, oil palm, rice , rubber, pigsty, poultry and vegetables or acceptable agricultural inputs.
Grant applications move counties through a system supported by newly recruited Business Development Service Providers (BDSPs) and are processed for selection and approval for submission to FAC.
Delivering the opening remarks, the Deputy Minister of Economic Management at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) Hon. Augustus J. Flomo said the action of reviewing applications and approving grants for agribusinesses was an important part of the country’s economic expansion program.
“I am particularly happy that we can hold this meeting after all the efforts that have been made to ensure that we provide the best opportunities to our actors in the agricultural sector. We can now chart a course for structuring the necessary support in an organized way that allows for the sustained increase in production, improved livelihoods for farmers and processors, and ultimately a more vibrant economy that can thrive through to agriculture,” he said.
He called on the PIU and MOA to initiate clear, transparent and sustainable communication mechanisms to assure beneficiaries and future beneficiaries that the activity is factual, addressing concerns of fraud and misinformation, and guidance on getting the best results.
In her statement, Agriculture Minister Jeanine M. Cooper said providing grants to beneficiaries will bridge the gap between large farmers, including concessionaires, and smallholders, enabling the latter to increase and be more competitive.
“Farmers in this category have always struggled to access finance to enable them to expand their operations to desired levels. I know this because I was in cultivation and production long before I became a minister. I am pleased that we are gathered here as the body that will approve the first financial support for deserving farmers to bolster their already strained efforts to make the sector a viable one that will boost our country’s economy,” he said. she declared.
Beneficiaries who have been approved will receive between US$15,000 and US$200,000 each in grants to increase their production capacity and cover the cost of other agriculture-related expenses. An Independent Investment Committee (IIC) forwarded 38 investment memoranda to the Fund Advisory Committee (FAC) for approval, with most applications coming from Nimba, Lofa, Margibi and Bomi counties. The CCF approved 23 of the investment memoranda and ordered that the remaining investment memoranda be restructured to address system-specific, not company-specific challenges.
The FAC, which is the highest decision-making body for the management of funds, is chaired by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) through its Minister Hon. Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., while the Department of Agriculture represented by Minister Jeanine M. Cooper is the co-chair. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MCI), the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs (MOS) and the National Investment Commission are members of the committee. Others include the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), Liberia Bankers Association, Liberia Business Association (LIBA) and Deloitte West Africa which is the fund manager.