Small scale farming remains the foremost economic activity among poor families in Liberia and the Mano River Basin region. However, many farmers lack resources, training, and funds to increase their farm’s productivity. Family farmers often lack startup capital to buy basics such as improved seeds and many live-in remote villages that make it difficult to access basic supplies. Moreover, without proper agricultural training, farmers often do not know how to optimize agricultural productivity. For many farmers, translating harvests into profit presents an additional hurdle. Pest infestations, rotting crops, lack of storage facilities, and difficulties navigating local trade networks are some of the issues that prevent farmers from getting the most from their harvests in Liberia and the sub-region.
VOSIEDA improve small scale farmers’ access to improved seeds and better agricultural training to improve harvests and conserve biodiversity. We improve value chain and help farmers safely store their crops. Besides, we link small farmers to the market and help them build relationships with local traders. Moreover, we work to address the persisting inequalities that effect the under performance of small-scale agriculture in Liberia and sub-region, through empowerment of rural women, men, girls, and boys, equally.
As a conservation organization, VOSIEDA neither use nor promote industrial agriculture, where synthetic chemicals that can damage the land and leech into rivers are used. We are working with small scale farmers mostly in conservation agriculture practices. We emphasize methods that maintain a balance between food security and natural resources conservation. We are mostly using conservation farming strategies such as rotating crops to keep the land fertile, plant cover crops to retain water, and replenish soil’s organic matter to cultivate pest-resistance and high nutrient value. We do not use or promote agriculture practices such as plowing the soil to prepare for planting. We are training small scale farmers to avoid tilling unless there’s no other choice.
Liberia and the Mano River Union Basin are forested region and approximately one-third of soil are degraded. Conservation Agriculture is a farming system that can prevent losses of arable land while regenerating degraded lands. It promotes maintenance of a permanent soil cover, minimum soil tillage, and diversification of plant species. It enhances biodiversity and natural biological processes above and below the ground surface, which contribute to increased water and nutrient use efficiency and to improved and sustained crop production.
Our work with small-scale farmers are based on three main principles, which we adapt to reflect local conditions and needs:
- Minimum mechanical soil disturbance (i.e. no tillage) through direct seed and/or fertilizer placement. This reduces soil erosion and preserves soil organic matter.
- Permanent soil organic cover (at least 30 percent) with crop residues and/or covers crops. Maintaining a protective layer of vegetation on the soil surface suppresses weeds, protects the soil from the impact of extreme weather patterns, helps to preserve soil moisture, and avoids compaction of the soil.
- Species diversification through varied crop sequences and associations involving at least three different crops. We are helping farmers to promote good soil structure through crops rotation, fosters a diverse range of soil flora and fauna that contributes to nutrient cycling and improved plant nutrition, and helps to prevent pests and diseases.
In Liberia and the Mano River Basin region, basic technologies such as improved seeds are often unavailable. The minority of smallholder farmers must travel to the big cities to buy a bag of chemical fertilizer or a can of improved seed, often imported from oversea. However, the majority of farm families are unable to access the start-up capital to make the trip or to purchase a bag of chemical fertilizer. Besides, even those that can afford often struggle to optimize their farming output without proper training on agricultural best practices.
VOSIEDA strive to deliver high-quality farm inputs within walking distance of small-scale farmers at the start of their planting season. Throughout the season, our staff delivers in-field training on best farming practices. And at harvest time, our team provide farmers with the tools and knowledge to safely store their harvest and sell during the off-season for a considerable profit.
Studies and realities have shown that small holders’ farmers in Mano River Basin often sell surplus production at farm gate prices, receiving only 10% to 20% of the sale price, with the rest eaten up by various transaction costs such as transportation and post-harvest losses. We are working with farmers to improve market opportunities; access to market information and increase the demand for commodities by developing markets for alternative uses, such as processing and value addition.
Agriculture in Liberia and the Mano River Basin region is dominated by smallholders. Nevertheless, most smallholder farmers still use traditional methods or low resource technologies, handed down to them from generations. Besides, most of them rarely leverage their numbers to secure better services, access inputs, markets, and educational services for their members. This is due to a poor understanding of how to access those basic services. They also poorly govern and manage their organizations and are influenced by the unfortunate lack of trust that characterized the local communities in which they operate. In response, VOSIEDA is working to enhance the institutional capacities of these organizations and enable them to benefit the farmers they serve. We also work to link farmers’ organizations to the markets and build their capacities to strongly influence policies in their favor.
According to the World Bank, an estimated 36 percent of the very poor escaped extreme poverty because of social safety nets. This provides clear evidence that social safety net programs—which include cash, food, in-kind transfers, social pensions, public works, and school feeding programs targeted to poor and vulnerable households—make a substantial impact in the fight against poverty. Data also shows that these programs lower inequality and reduce the poverty gap by about 45 percent.
Accordingly, VOSIEDA supports and undertakes sustainable and affordable safety net programs that protect families from the impact of economic shocks, natural disasters, and other crises. Our safety net interventions range from cash transfers, in-kind, and food assistance to public works. These social safety nets have positive and significant impacts on education, health, and food security, but also promote households’ ability to generate income that can lead to positive effects in local communities.
Our Ongoing Food Security & Livelihood Enhancement Projects
PROJECT TITLE: COVID-19 Households Food Support Programme (COHFSP) in Montserrado, Margibi and Nimba Counties amid Government Containment Measures
SUPPORTERS: United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)
DURATION: 8 Months (May – December) 2020
REGION: Western Africa
SECTOR: Food Security and Livelihood Enhancement
Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in Liberia in mid-March 2020, the Government of Liberia instituted strong and swift measures to curb the virus and safeguard the wellbeing of Liberian citizens and other residents. In President George Weah’s address to the nation on 8th April 2020, he announced a State of Emergency starting 10 April and outlined a holistic, all-inclusive response to tackle the health and other consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak, encouraging Liberians to cooperate and recalling the Legislature from its annual recess to approve the emergency measures. As part of the measures, a stay-at-home order was announced.
With long-standing experience and vast expertise in emergency response, United Nations World Food Program was requested by the Government of Liberia to implement a Household Food Support Programme. In support of the planned intervention, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) entered partnership with Volunteers for Sustainable Development in Africa (VOSIEDA) and the Government of Liberia to provide food assistance to the most vulnerable families and households.
VOSIEDA in partnership with WFP is currently carrying the distribution in Monsterrado, Margibi, and Nimba Counties. The exercise would be extended to parts of the country. Other CSOs partners would be subcontracted by VOSIEDA to fast-track the food distribution process since many families are vulnerable and urgently need food and other assistance.
The purpose of the intervention is to provide emergency food assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic to vulnerable population of Liberia.
We working with the United Nations World food program and Government of Liberia to urgently provide food assistance because the majority of Liberian households are pushed into food insecurity because their ability to adapt was already limited before the catastrophe, by many factors. Some of these factors include low savings and access to finance and insurance. As a result, lives are lost, malnutrition rises, health worsens, and school enrollment drops. All this ultimately damages the economy’s productive capacity, thereby prompting urgent intervention such as emergency food assistance.
- Organize food distribution process at block and community level ensuring adherence to COVID-19 Protocols and Procedures.
- Ensure the right ration are provided to beneficiaries.
- Ensure beneficiaries are adequately informed about the distribution schedules and entitlements by making available ration information at each distribution site.
- Ensure that beneficiaries are aware of the COMPLAINTS and FEEDBACK MECHANISM for voicing their CONCERNS and FORWARDING complaints about the distribution process.
- Provide daily food distribution report to UNWFP.
- Provide full Distribution Report latest one (1) week after food distribution in each community.
- Ensure distribution report capture the number of beneficiaries living with disabilities, in addition to disaggregating beneficiary data by sex and age group.
- Provide final narrative report after the entire exercise.
Outcome expected / achieved:
Food security in Liberia and the Mano River Union Basin region is under threat. The ability of the majority of people in the region to access sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs has been disrupted by successive natural disasters and epidemics such as climate change and Ebola. The COVID-19 pandemic is just the latest catastrophe to have swollen the ranks of millions of people going hungry in the region. Our current intervention is a social safety net to save millions of vulnerable households and families and empower them to cope with the shock caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Zero Hunger – to minimize the impact of the COVID – 19 pandemic on vulnerable populations in Liberia. With this humanitarian food assistance, we are providing nutritious food to those in urgent need in the meantime. Our complementary development programs are addressing the root causes of hunger, the impact of COVID 19 on women, girls and the vulnerable populations in Liberia and the Mano River Basin region. We are also building the resilience of communities and preserving the abilities of women and the most vulnerable to combat violence, tackle poverty and meet basic livelihoods in the context of COVID 19 in Liberia and the Mano River Basin regio