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The Smallholder Agricultural Productivity Enhancement and Commercialization (SAPEC) Project is designed to hasten the transformation of Liberia's agriculture sector, which is dominated by traditional subsistence farming systems characterized by labor intensive shifting cultivation and low technologies, thus resulting in low productivity. SAPEC addresses all of the key challenges and interventions identified in the LASIP and, as such, represents an integrated and comprehensive approach to improving food security, reducing poverty, and fostering national economic growth. Food security in Program 1 is dealt with through production intensification; the need for competitive value chains and market linkages in Program 2 are the focus of value addition and market access; and Program 3's institutional development concerns are addressed in SAPEC's Components 2 and 3 that focus on capacity building and institutional strengthening, as well as improved program coordination, management, and implementation.
The SAPEC area comprises 12 counties, eight of which fall in the project area for the AfDB/International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) co- financed Agricultural Sector Rehabilitation Project (ASRP). These eight counties are the rice production counties of the southeast (Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Grand Kru, and Maryland) and the major cassava production areas in the northwest (Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, Montserrado, and Grand Bassa). The four counties to be added to this group are Gbarpolu, Sinoe, River Cess,and Margibi. The direct project beneficiaries are estimated at 19 ,000 low-income, food-insecure households.
This intervention will add value to what farmers currently produce, increase thepurchasing power of producers and through the introduction of labor- saving technologies, attract youth to agriculture and increase the productivity of women. Private sector participation in agricultural value chains will be enhanced through increased market access resulting from feeder roads construction or rehabilitation, and household health will be improved through access to marketplaces with waste disposal, potable water, or sanitation facilities. Furthermore, farmer incomes will be increased through improvements in post-harvest and labor-saving technologies, and value addition.
The target is to reduce post-harvest losses in the project area from the current rate of 40% or higher to below 20% and increase market penetration. Critical activities include:
(i) rehabilitating and/or constructing permanent, modern market structures;
(ii) providing improved storage and processing facilities for staples such as rice and cassava;
(iii) disseminating information on improved post-harvest technologies;
(iv) making labor-saving technologies and devices (i.e., threshers, winnowers, and milling machines) available to eligible farmers and FBOs; and
(v) rehabilitating and/or constructing all-weather feeder roads.
The overall objective of the SAPEC project is to reduce rural poverty and household food insecurity on a sustainable basis. The specific objectives are to:
(i) expand irrigable land and improve land husbandry, intensify production, and increase value added and market access; and
(ii) improve technology generation, dissemination, adoption, coordination, management, and implementation capacities at the MOA and other key institutions. Activities to be undertaken to achieve these objectives will mainstream gender perspectives.
Liberian agriculture comprises food and tree crops, fisheries, and livestock. The sector accounted for 42.2% of real gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008. Approximately 70% of the country's population depends on agriculture for its livelihood. The sector is a significant contributor to the economy in terms of employment and foreign exchange earnings, and a primary determinant of nutrition, education, poverty reduction, and rural transformation. Rice and cassava are the main staple food crops, while rubber, oil palm, and cocoa are the dominant export tree crops. Women are major players in the sector, producing over 60% of agricultural products and constituting the majority of smallholder producers and the agricultural labor force. Approximately half of the population is either food insecure or highly vulnerable to food shortages due in part to low agricultural productivity that in turn is caused by structural impediments, inadequate policies, and prolonged conflicts that displaced farming communities, degraded transport and processing infrastructures, and diminished productive capacities such as assets and skilled personnel. Specific constraints include weak land management and water control systems, limited production intensification and crop diversification, restricted market access due to poor food value chains (i.e., storage, processing, marketing channels, and credit), and low institutional capacity. These constraints have served as disincentives for producing marketable surpluses which would contribute to food security and reducing poverty.
Liberia prepared the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) Compact as well as the post-Compact investment plan, and subsequently obtained a CAADP technical review report. The Liberia Agriculture Sector Investment Program (LASIP) presents the strategic choices that Liberia has made for agricultural growth and development over the next five years in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. The LASIP seeks to transform Liberian agriculture and, in so doing, maximize the sector's contributions to economic growth, employment and income generation, food and nutrition security,and poverty reduction. The LASIP adopts an approach to raising agricultural productivity, strengthening institutions, and making markets work for households and communities through commercialization and private sector initiatives. The key performance indicator is an increase in agricultural growth of 6% per annum by 2015. It is within this pro-poor, conflict-sensitive context that the GOL is concentrating its actions and efforts on smallholders with a focus on food crops (rice, cassava, and vegetables) productivity enhancement, value chains development (including market access), and capacity strengthening.
The SAPEC project area will complement the geographic areas targeted for intervention by the Multiyear Assistance Program (MYAP) which is in pre-implementation and the upcoming Food and Enterprise Development (FED) of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The geographic areas targeted by MYAP are Nimba, Lofa, Grand Gedeh and River Gee counties. FED primary targets are Bong, Nimba, Lofa, and Grand Bassa. Complementing the project area targeted by FED and MYAP with the geographic area proposed for the SAPEC will ensure nationwide coverage and geopolitical equity, thus facilitating not only agricultural growth and development but also peace consolidation in fragile, post-conflict Liberia through products by increasing the availability of rural agricultural infrastructure such as feeder roads, modern market places, storage facilities, and processing equipment, and promoting laborsaving devices.
Details of the benefits of the program will be ascertained through the financial and economic analysis following the detailed preparation of the program. The general program benefits are listed by component below:
Component 1: Crop Production Intensification and Marketing: Under this component land under irrigation will be increased from 2% to 5%, national food crops seed chain will be developed, post harvest losses will be reduced and marketability of produce will be enhanced through processing/value addition. It is expected that this will result in increased agricultural production and subsequently, enhanced food and nutrition security, increased employment, and reduced poverty.
Component 2: Capacity Building and Institutional Strengthening: Benefits under this component include reformed and re-structured agricultural institutions, improved agricultural research and extension capacity as well improved capacity of the agricultural value chain actors in the private sector, especially the Farmer Based Organisations.
Component 3: Project Management: The expected benefits under this component include better equipped agricultural institutions in addition to improved core competencies of agriculture sector professionals especially in policy development and agricultural program design and implementation. This will enable the respective institutions to efficiently and effectively deliver on their agricultural sector mandate.
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