New Liberian Tree Crop Rehabilitation Project to Benefit 26,000 Farming Household Members (2012)
What happens when a national government has programs and staff in place in its Agriculture, Land Tenure, Labor and Economy ministries to address standard of living issues in specific provinces? It gets the attention of the World Bank, who finances a $24 million 2-year cocoa improvement project in Liberia. A glance at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)’s Smallholder Tree Crop Revitalization Support Project (STCRSP)’s design report (http://www.ifad.org/operations/projects/design/104/liberia.pdf) outlines a cocoa revitalization project so similar to JMD’s Aceh Timur Cocoa Improvement project it is downright spooky.
The executive summary mentions international cocoa market trends, environmental awareness, the need to re-integrate former combatants into a legal workforce, a high number of poor smallholder farmers with less than 2HA of land who need to pool their resources to strengthen their product and raise profits, the need to target female heads of households, youth, and war-wounded/disabled. “Particular attention will be given to the participation of women and youth through their involvement as service providers in the value chain . . .”
Now, where have we heard that before?
The proposed project aims to increase the incomes of the targeted cocoa and coffee producers through a raise in the quantity sold and the price received by poor farmers obtained by rehabilitating plantations, improving access to markets and by strengthening MOA and/or private extension services as well as farmers-based organizations/ cooperatives.” Components include revitalization of cocoa plantations, training in green (organic) farming methods, Farmers Field Schools methodology, and management training.
The only differences between Liberia’s project and JMD’s Cocoa Farming Initiative are the project’s scope (due to its extensive budget), its additional goal of creating farm-to-market roads (which JMD has advocated for at the provincial level since 2008) and the continued and supportive presence of government agencies and officials who are empowered to make policy decisions and who daily articulate the government’s support of and involvement in the project.
"Over the last two years, we have been assisting the Government of Liberia in developing mechanisms for supporting the Liberian smallholder tree crop farmers in rehabilitating their tree crop farms. . . . This project, which will promote productive activities in agriculture in support of the Government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, will also serve as the preparation stage for a future long term program aimed at restoring a vibrant tree crop sector in Liberia, generating rural incomes and employment opportunities in the rural areas." –Inguna Dorraja, Country Manager for LIberia
Why is government support so important for projects such as cocoa farm rehabilitation and improvement in post-conflict zones? In order to receive World Bank support a government and its staff has to agree to be actively involved in the success of the initiative. It also has to demonstrate that commitment by contributing a percent of total costs, which in this case is about 8% or US $2 million.
Without this government support, private companies such as major cocoa producers will not want to invest in the project. No problem there for Liberia, who predicted it will receive 20% of project costs through a private funder.
Known throughout southeast Asia and elsewhere as having some of the best growing conditions for quality cocoa, Aceh’s geographical and political relationship to Jakarta, combined with the 2004 outpouring of tsunami reconstruction aid, has resulted in a “donor fatigue” of sorts, an assumption that the province has “received too much” support and outside assistance is better spent elsewhere. Adding to this misconception is the interesting phenomenon of government fatigue: the inability or unwillingness of the mainland Indonesian government to participate in its own betterment at nearly any level.
JMD will continue to implement its small, community-centered projects for which little or no local, regional or national government support or interest is available. Our best wishes to Liberia, however: we hope you make good use of our mutual proposal and strategy :) !