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ZOA Empowers About 1,500 Cassava Farmers In Bomi, Cape Mount
By Prince S. Nagbe
MONROVIA, January 30 (LINA) – About 1,500 cassava farmers from Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties have lauded ZOA for providing them training, equipment and funding, which improved their level of production and livelihood.
ZOA, an international non-governmental organization with funding from the European Union (EU), has for the past three years provided training and equipment for cassava farmers in six counties under its “Cassava Value Chain Development Project.”
ZOA’s Cassava Value Chain Development Project, which is implemented in Montserrado, Margibi, Bomi, Cape Mount, Gbarpolu and Bong counties is built on three pillars - production, processing and marketing.
During a tour of eight ZOA project communities in Bomi and Cape Mount counties over the weekend, cassava farmers told the Liberia News Agency (LINA) that the project has given them a different outlook of the cassava sector which has helped improve their livelihood.
The communities toured included Mediana, Korsor, Sombai and Gbatoja Towns in Grand Cape Mount County and Malama, Dagweh, Gangama and Demeh Towns in Bomi County.
“ZOA has taught us a better way to plant cassava stem which has increased our production; we also have a cassava processing machine given to us by ZOA to process our cassava into farina, fufu and other products for sale,” Grana Konneh, a farmer in Gangama Town in Bomi County told LINA.
“This is the first time for cassava farmers to make good money from cassava farming,” Jebbeh Fahnbulleh, a cassava farmer from Sombai Town in Grand Cape Mount explained, adding, “Apart from selling the cassava, we can now produce enough farina and fufu for sale without stress by using the machine given to us by ZOA.”
In addition to cassava production, processing and marketing, ZOA has also introduced the “Village Savings and Loan Associations” (VSLA) in all of its project communities in the six counties to help the farmers save proceeds from the sale of their produce.
Most of the farmers who spoke to LINA said the savings and loan scheme has improved their living standards as most of them are now moving away from sleeping in houses roofed with palm thatch to ones roofed with zinc and are also able to pay their children’s school fees.
“I am not doing ‘from hand-to-mouth’ farming anymore. The ZOA VSLA program has made me capable of paying my children’s school fees on time and to also take care of my other needs,” Momo Boima, a farmer in Malama Town in Bomi County explained.
“I have bought four bundles of zinc to change my thatched roof to prepare my family for the upcoming rainy season from the loan I took from my Village Savings and Loan Association through ZOA,” Dao Konneh from Gbatoja Town in Grand Cape Mount narrated to LINA.
Konneh said for too long they have labored as farmers with little or nothing to show as fruit of their labor until ZOA came to their rescue by providing them new knowledge and skills which have helped them move one step away from abject poverty.
Meanwhile, many of the farmers have called on EU and other donors to ensure that the project is extended to the remaining nine counties across the country by providing more funding to ZOA and other agriculture implementing non-governmental organizations to improve the sector.
The “Cassava Value Chain Development Project” is a US$2 million EU-funded project which is being implemented by ZOA in partnership with Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) under the Liberia Agriculture Transformation Agenda (LATA) program.
LATA is a program designed by the Ministry of Agriculture under which 150,000 farmers are to directly receive input support and funding from commercial banks through a risk-sharing agreement with the government, among other activities.
ZOA is also working with five cassava processing and packaging centers that process, package and sell finished products such as odourless fufu, Super Gari, starch, among others, from the cassava purchased from farmers in an effort to improve the livelihoods of the farmers.
The five centers include YAEHD Cassava Processing Center in Bong County; the Women of Destiny in Bensonville; WOFIM Cassava Processing Center in Gbarpolu, Bravo Sisters Enterprise in Mamba Point, Monrovia and FALAMA INC. in the Monrovia suburb of Congo Town.
Speaking to LINA following the tour, ZOA Program Manager Michael Dey said there is a great potential in the country’s agriculture sector, especially cassava production, a product from which lots of other finished products are produced.
Dey called on farmers across the country, especially those in ZOA’s project communities, to make maximum use of the training and equipment provided them by ZOA to remain on the track of growth and prosperity.