Ministry of agriculture and ministry of public works smallholder tree crop revitalization support project

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This report presents a summary of results of the consultative meetings and workshops held in eight counties in Liberia as part of the Environmental and Social Management Framework Development. The mission took place from July 10th to August 5th, 2011. The information gathered formed critical parts of the main O draft report submitted by the consultants.
The Consultants conducted individual meetings, focus group discussions, key informant interviews, one on one meeting and informal community / village level meetings. The regional county meetings including that in Monrovia which were organized with support from the County Agricultural Coordinators (CAC) and the project preparation coordinator. District Agricultural Officers ensured where possible that villages and communities were informed in advance of these meetings.
Team Members

The team comprised the Environment (Team Leader) and Social Development and Gender Specialists with support from the Project Preparation Coordinator.

Thematic Discussions

The discussions were guided by some key elements and components based on the Terms of Reference for the environmental and social impact assessment:

General Environmental Conditions of the proposed project areas

Observation of the Natural Habitat

Pest and pesticide management issues relevant to the STCRSP and relating to the four tree crops

Typical, biological, and socioeconomic characteristics of the proposed project areas

Current and potential development activities within the participating counties

Marketing infrastructure, access to agricultural inputs and services

The socio-economic benefit of the project to communities and possible impacts (negative and positive) including improved road network

Labor issues and possible influx of from neighboring counties or countries as farm hands and associated social dynamics

Increased employment for the youth and impact on rural-urban movement

High levels of expectations from communities, increased demand for more support from the project beyond the capacity of the project

Relationship between farmers and implementing agencies like NGOs, Concessions

Land related disputes, family disputes about land and property ownership and implications for project activities

Gender equality, youth, children and vulnerability issues
The above issues guided discussions with key stakeholders and communities visited.

Arrival of Consultants

Consultants arrived in Monrovia and settled in at the Renaissance Hotel in Monrovia. Both Consultant and Team Leader arrived on the same day and were introduced to the project formulation coordinator Mr. Kwasi Poku.
Meeting with AEDE (Agency of Economic Development)

An introductory meeting was held with AEDE a local partner of Agrer. This was to discuss the planned itinerary and to share information on the nature of the ESMF to be conducted. The meetings was attended by the management of AEDE led by the Executive Director (Refer to Participants List)

Meeting at the Ministry of Agriculture

An official meeting with Mr. Kwasi Poku was held to modify and practicalize the tentative schedule drawn by the consultants. It was agreed that the Team Leader (Mr. Wayne Borden) should be part of the visit to all the counties to ensure a birds-eye view of the environment the project and it would still be possible to do so and return to Monrovia before his departure. Mr. Poku explained that it would be better to start with the neighboring counties and move into the interior rather that the opposite and especially since most of the Concessions the project targets have officers in or near Monrovia and it would be better management of time to target them before moving over to other counties.

Meeting with Ministry of Agriculture Project Formulation Team

A short introductory meeting was held with some key representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture who formed part of the core project formulation Team. The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the assignment to them and to seek their support in assessing the practicality of the itinerary drawn by the consultants and to agree on the relevance of the program in relation to the communities targeted. The team provided some input into the program and supported the selection of areas and communities to visit which had to fall within the coffee, cocoa, oil palm and smallholder rubber areas. They agreed to meet the team in the last week of their mission for debriefing and a more in-depth discussions.

Meeting with Morris American Rubber Concession

A meeting was held with the General Manager of Morris American Rubber Company (MARCO) at their office in Monrovia to plan and schedule visit to their plantation and also to plan for a workshop with representatives and leaders of their communities. He explained his organizations position on developing small holder farms by allocating portion of the concession back to the communities for them to become part of the concession but identified the need for some attitudinal changes among community members to be able to gain maximum benefit from the . Among the key issues discussed were:

Land tenure issues and the challenge of getting people to understand the need to have their lands measure

Problem relating to the demarcation of lands for communities use

Clearing of land and compensation to be paid to squatters

Religious and cultural beliefs and attachment to land where shrines and other religious relics are supposed to be

The project is designating a total of 1000 acres for development into rubber by the community but some initial apathy has been detected from the community members.

Discussions with the community is ongoing but the project has to come clear with its objectives so that they can be better sensitized on the commitments from both the

The surveyor who has been designated to measure the land is having challenges getting some community members to understand the importance of having the community lands measured.

The organization pledges its commitment to be part of the project but this would require a lot of clear guidance from the project.

The organization is also working with some partners on other designated plots of land and these include the Buchanan Renewables and the Farmbuilders which would be working with farmers to demonstrate proper land management.

Compensation of Squatters who may be in the area allocated for development and new planting of rubber

Consultative Workshop with District / Community Leaders and Visit to MARCO

Monsarado/Margibi/Bong – Morning visit MARCO Concession – meeting with officials and villagers who have been allocated 1000 acres of the MARCO Concession for smallholder rubber development. Afternoon visit to Salala Rubber company to meet the Concession and ascertain locality of target smallholders. Overnight in Monrovia.

The team met with Mr. Bill Morris, CEO of MARCO and representatives of the community targeted for the project. The community has a population of over 2000 and the project is targeting 300 hectares for the new planting of rubber to be owned by the community at 2-5 acres per community members that is about 2 hectares. Labor is to be provided by the community whilst MARCO will provide the technical backstopping required by community members. The CEO pledges his commitment to the people and indicates that the land is part of the concession which he is “giving back” to the community. The workshop was attended by representatives of the community, district and county. These included the Superintendent, Commissioner and the chief (traditional leader).

The community is happy with the gesture from MARCO’s CEO to provide them with part of “their” land which was given to MARCO. They however have some concerns which have not yet been clarified. This relates mainly to current provision of social services particularly to the workers of the company who live in the camps.

Initial engagement with the community has not clarified whether community members will own the land ones the planted rubber have matured or it would be reverted back to MARCO?
Key Issues:

Land ownership rights of communities who participate in smallholder schemes on plantation concessions

Communities understanding of ownership of land within concessions

Communities attitude in loan repayments

Communities expectation of what benefits needs to come to them from the Concession
Field Visit

Proposed Project Site at Monsarado/Margibi and Stakeholder villages and planned development location on MARCO Concession.

Field Visit to Equatorial Palm Oil

The meeting commenced with Morning meeting with Equatorial Palm Oil management in Monrovia, then the team traveled to Buchanan City, the capital of Grand Bassa County. Key activities included field visits and stakeholder workshops. The afternoon of the first day was spent visiting target Smallholder area adjacent to Equatorial Palm Oil Concession and meeting with stakeholders in the villages of Neor Town, Compound 4, Behn Town and Karsuah Town. The communities confirmed the predominance of Oil Palm as a major crop on which most community members depended on as their major crop. The communities currently do not engage in any smallholder activity with Equatorial Palm but would be glad to establish some links with the company like they previously did with LIBINCO. The team also visited Go Town and Little Cola Town both satellite communities where a lot of trading goes on but not engaged in oil Palm cropping.

Land Tenure: The community has a vast stretch of land surrounding it and land is not an issue for both men, women and youth who showed interest in farming.
Economic Importance of Oil Palm: The economic importance of the crop to the communities was deeply expressed.
Stakeholders Workshop

The workshop was organized in Buchanan on July 15th 2011 and was chaired by a representative from the office of the superintendent. The workshop was attended by thirty five persons with representatives from 10 communities including district level stakeholders. About 10 women attended with representation from the Ministry of Gender and Development. It was established that communities in the area have a strong potential for developing the tree crop sector especially oil palm. The community members expressed their high interest in getting involved in the project especially for the rehabilitation of old oil palm plantations. There is however the need for sensitization and awareness on the project.

Key Issues raised can be categorized as following:

Environmental knowledge and awareness is low among community members;

Road accessibility is a major issue in the county since most communities are unreachable during the rainy season;

The communities have access to large acreages of land but current holdings have not been documented;

There are limited number of farmer groups and associations, however the Ministry of Gender and the Ministry of Agriculture have mobilized some women’s groups in some communities to engage in cassava and peanut farming;

Labor for farming is dependent on family members though there is the “kuu” system of shared labor operating in most communities. This operate on some cost sharing arrangements where labor offered may be paid for in kind;

The operation of NGOs in the communities have not been sustainable since they implement mini and micro projects targeting few members of the communities;

Youth issues abound in the communities and the county as a whole. Most of them are unemployed and continue to migrate into larger towns and cities. They require more capacity building and waged-work and majority of them are not interested in farming;

Capacity building in terms of training of farmers in improved technologies and also mobilization of farmer groups and associations is critical;

Access to improved seedlings and varieties for replanting and new plantings is the most urgent of need;

Community members may not be used to taking and repaying for loans and any project which would build in loan components need to be carefully implemented to ensure loan repayments by farmers. This may require some intense awareness to ensure change of mindset towards loan repayments;

The communities have strong clan and traditional and leadership systems which can support effectively the implementation of all kinds of projects; and

Some communities have experience in working with concessions but majority do not and would have to be sensitized and offered some technical backstopping to conform to the guidelines set out by the Concession.
The team traveled to Gbarnga via Botata to afford them with the opportunity to pass through the cocoa growing districts of Kokoya and Joquella. The first community visited was Kakamue where traditionally the men in the community cultivated Cocoa. Some members of the community are currently participants in the ACDI/VOCA funded and IITA facilitated Small Tree Crops Project. A meetings was held with Abel Suah a Cocoa Farmer after a visit to his farm. The team had a meeting with Smallholder Cocoa Farmers attending an IITA Farmer Field School (FFS) Training session in a Cocoa garden in the village of Kpoenyea. The meeting was attended by twenty five (25) farmers made up of representatives from five (5) other surrounding communities (Quayakulah, Kpoe, Joe Town, Tookpolorsu and Duiaya).
The group meets frequently to learn new methods of rehabilitating and maintaining their cocoa farms. The group is being supported with basic inputs from the IITA and also with improved seedling varieties for replanting. There are limited number of women and the youth in the groups due to the current traditional roles which considers cocoa growing as a man’s occupation though women are not bared. The few women who may currently own cocoa farms may be widowed or have either inherited them from men. The youth are generally more interested in waged work and are attracted to the cities and or mining communities. Among the critical needs of the farmer group are chemicals and inputs since some of the farms are infested with diseases and pests and would require further treatment. The group is aware of some of the environmental hazards that my result from the use of chemicals but have limited training in its application though they are being offered some environmental awareness.

The meetings at Suacoco with the County Agricultural Coordinated (CAC) revealed that the county indeed has some Cocoa growing communities but majority are cut off due to poor road infrastructure hindering accessibility. Indeed an attempt to reach one such community in the district had to be boycotted due to the nature of the road. The District Agricultural Officer (DAO) confirmed the existence of many farmer groups and associations some of which have been mobilized into cooperatives however all these groups would require proper mobilization and capacity enhancement.

Bong Stakeholders’ Workshop

The Bong Consultative workshop was well attended by the county development superintendent, commissioners from six districts, three of which were very much involved in Cocoa. Key issues discussed were:

Availability of land with limited usage and the practice of subsistent farming mainly concentrating on food crops;

The likelihood of the STCRSP supporting the revamping of the county’s agricultural economy;

Revitalization of cooperatives which would require a lot of mobilization and training;

IITA already trained facilitators in their operating communities through the FFS and these is supporting rehabilitation of cocoa farms;

The project is almost at the end and farmers are particularly worried about sustainability of activities commenced by the project;

Spraying of farms: insecticides and fungicides may be required due to the extent of infestations and black pod diseases in some cocoa farms;

The project need to carefully exploit avenues of working with local stakeholders to ensure support from all local stakeholders and sure proper mobilization of farmers and farmers groups; and

There is the need for more information and dialogue between project facilitators and local stakeholders about the proposed project so that there will be proper engagement on the nature of the project and the type of farmers to be targeted.

The team conducted some field visits and visited two main districts the Zoe-Bahn and the Saclepea Mann District. In the Zoe-Bahn District they visited the Zayglay Clan area one of the main cocoa growing areas. Here they met with a group of farmers who are members of the Kpodo Farmers Cooperative, one of the few who have existed for a long time. Here the environmental expert and team leaders visited a Cocoa Garden with the District Agricultural Officers (DAO). Focus group discussions were held with the community leaders, cooperative executives and women leaders. The team visited Tingbein community for a Stakeholder meeting and visit to a Cocoa Garden. The communities confirmed the area as a major cocoa growing district in previous times with a large number of farms requiring rehabilitation.

During the meetings community members expressed their interest in becoming part of the project since they have scattered cocoa farms that require rehabilitation. However they expressed that they are limited in several ways:

Aged plantations requiring intensive rehabilitation;

Low pricing of cocoa beans;

Pests and diseases exists on farms;

Non-availability of new seedlings for replanting and new plantings;

Gender roles and divisions means women do not own farms but are active members of family labor on cocoa farms;

Youth do not show much interest in farming and are giving land only when they show interest;

Existence of some groups and cooperatives with limited capacity; and

Family labor exists but continue to be limited and paid labor is getting scarce

The main target for the Grand Gedeh workshops was the Amenu Farmers Cooperative who are the main targets of the project in the county. The cooperative is linked to the Oil Palm Plantation situated within the Zleh Town community with a vibrant cooperative. Currently the plantation is managed by the AEI. The farmers also have cocoa farms. The cooperative have an estimated 2000 members. The farmers are interested in extending their farms with some smallholder arrangements and were confident of their capacity to undertake any such out-grower scheme having previously participated under the LPMC schemes. The members think their current ownership of the plantation (vested by the government of Liberia) by the cooperative places them in a better position to support any such smallholder scheme. Rehabilitation of the existing oil palm will revive the local economy since prior to the conflict the community was economically vibrant.
The high attendance of the meeting indicated the high interest of the Amenu cooperatives in reviving their cooperatives and be involved in another project. Critical however is the current objective of the cooperatives, the need for capacity enhancement, some intensive extension support and the improvement in the use of technology and processing equipments. The issue of value addition to the processed palm oil by locals may hold the key to the development of a local oil palm industry in the area. Women and youth involvement were not questioned since about a third of the members of the cooperatives.
The main consultations were held with the Cavalla Rubber Company (CRC) and the Country Agricultural Coordinator (CAC) at Harper, the County capital. The CAC expressed concerns over the scarcity of land in the Maryland area for smallholders to invest in tree crops due to the investment of large acreages to Rubber as concessions and plantations in the past. The prime concern of the country is now on food security targeting particularly female farmers. She expressed her support for the project and agreed to backstop the Cavalla Rubber Company should they be involved in the project to ensure that smallholders receive the necessary technical support under the project. She stated that the basic requirement of the county agricultural development is availability and skill of technical officers and so the project support should consider capacity building as a crucial activity. The county has shortages of technical staff including district officers.
Meetings held with the CRC Deputy Manager and Out-grower Manager indicated the company’s current focus on developing its Out-grower schemes. The Out-grower Manager indicated the company’s attempt to ensure that most farmers in the peripheries of their plantation are involved. He indicated that an Out-grower Scheme is being supported which focuses on farmers mostly in the River Gee County. This confirmed the previous discussions held with the CAC that most farmers in the district are no longer able to commit much of their lands into rubber. He however expressed the poor nature of the roads linking the communities to the main access roads some of which requires some extensive travel on foot. He indicated that the company has commenced the mapping of the potential smallholder out-grower areas for future development. He indicated that partnership with the MOA for this project will ultimately benefit the poor farmers. He indicated that lands in these areas are available and farmers are willing to be part of the program with proper mobilization. The company is currently mobilizing the potential communities to be involved in the out-grower schemes and some can be adopted by the STCRSP. Discussing key thematic areas the CRC officers stated:

Their company is complying with all environmental procedures required by the EPA in Liberia, but cautioned that the company is still being develop to fully operationalize their environmental guidelines and provisions as laid down by its mother company SIFCA;

Environmental issues are now being given much consideration by Liberia though monitoring capacity of EPA can still be considered to be low and require some capacity enhancement;

The company is also very much aware of its social responsibility to the communities and smallholders and that would include the provision of social amenities including schools and access roads;

There is still the need to incorporate some peace-building elements in community level projects and also in national planning to improve and promote national democracy and good governance;

The Patriarchal system of inheritance may require some special projects or efforts to ensure the involvement of women and girls;

The issue of squatters cannot be ignored since there are still remnants of them within some plantations

Labor issues cannot be entirely ignored since though there is some unemployment, the youth are particularly not interested in horticultural and subsistence agriculture.

There are few formal wage jobs and there is the need to explore the avenues to involve particularly the youth in agriculture.
In the River Gee County the team visited one hinterland community, Freetown, which forms a satellite for many others. The Out-grower Manager of CRC pre-arranged for this meeting. The community is linked by very poor access road and hence it took quite some effort to reach that community which has a huge potential for an out-grower scheme. The meeting was chaired by the commissioner, and had representation of town elders and community members including a fair representation of women and youth. The community expressed interest in any such project which focuses on tree crops since they are already into cocoa and rubber though oil palm is not so prominent. The community is very close to the Ivory Coast and so the cultivation of particularly cocoa is of major interest to farmers. The critical issues discussed and observations made included the following:

Knowledge in environmental issues is very low and would require some awareness and sensitization;

There is vast stretches of marginal lands with the potential to be invested in tree crops;

These lands can be categorized into communal, family and also individual holdings where farms have already been established;

The community members already have experience in tree crop farming;

The CRC has commenced some mobilization process for their involvement in an out-grower scheme and this has been welcomed by the community members;

The community is surrounded by other villages and all are very much interested in any such out-grower schemes except that some are cut off due to poor road network;

The community is very much aware of the socio-economic benefits that a tree crop project may accrue to the community and critical among them is infrastructural development (roads, schools and clinic or health post);

Girls education is currently lacking behind and there is a huge problem with teenage pregnancies and any community level project must seek to address this problem by ensuring the inclusion of girl education or opportunities to involve them;

Labor may not be an issue initially since family labor currently exists and also there are “kuus” or self help groups;

Mobilization of farmer groups and associations may be crucial since the communities no longer have well organized cooperatives and these groups when formed will need a lot of training and capacity building since due to the long years of conflict leadership skills are currently scarce; and

There is currently limited activities of NGOs in the community and with the influx of Ivorian refugees the community needs a lot of support;

The stakeholder consultations at the national level took place between July 27th and August 4th 2011. Meetings were held with key stakeholders at the national level including some International and National Development Partners (ILO, UNDP, UNICEF, IITA and Farm builders, ACDI/VOCA) and some ministries and agencies (EPA, LISGIS, Ministry of Gender, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Labor, CDA). Further meeting were held with the MOA Core Design Team, Deputy Ministers and Assistant Ministers. The dialogue focused around these key issues:

Technical support for implementing partners and community level stakeholders must be a key component of the project and the framework must investigate how best this can be done;

There is the need for the project formulation to come up with an economic viability index since it is not currently defined in a precise manner;

Farming families and the issues of labor has to be further investigated since the different phases of the project may require different levels of involvement by family labor and the rights of children should not be compromised;

Biodiversity conservation issues must be built into the project development. There may be the need to ensure that species which has some economic importance like Medicinal trees and shrubs

Environmental impacts for the development of tree crops may require a more in-depth study;

At the National level there is currently an ongoing Community forestry Projects which may be in its second year and identification of non-forest products and economically significant species may be useful for consideration by the project;

Linkages with other projects need to be carefully considered and reconsidered in the project design– with ASRP Model

Youth migration is currently very high especially into the cities and town and o attract them back into the farming sector and especially into tree crops may be an important outcome of the project;

Project component relating to value additions need to be further exploited and the role of women and the youth would require specifically designed strategies since these groups have peculiar needs and roles which may not be targeted by the project design

Other projects e.g. cocoa projects are currently ongoing and there is the need to exploit avenues for linkages and synergies especially that being implemented by the STCP of the IITA/ACDI VOCA;

Health issues particularly HIV/AIDS and Malaria need to be mainstreamed into project considerations;

Consensus on the acceptability of project among stakeholders must not overlooked since many stakeholders have roles;

Cultural considerations require that local strategies and traditions have to be properly integrated to support sustainability; and

Aversion to existing groups and cooperatives may need to be carefully considered since these groups may have been formed with particularly objectives which may not necessarily fit that of the STCRSP.
Stakeholders Workshop

This section summarizes the key issues gathered during the stakeholders debriefing and consultative workshop held in Monrovia on August 4th, 2011. The workshop targeted the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) extended project design team and other key stakeholders. The extended design team forms part of the main stakeholder group mobilized to support the design of the STCRSP with possible involvement in its implementation. The organization and facilitation of the workshop was assisted by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Key points:

Environmental knowledge and awareness is not as low among national stakeholders but may require some intense education among the grassroots. EPA is still a young agency with challenges and the project must ensure that enough capacity building activities are inculcated into the project targeting all levels of stakeholders.

Pest management and the use chemicals (insecticides and fungicides is a major issue which should be considered bearing in mind some of the current international guidelines and also being aware of the demands of international markets. For instance one of the main buyers of cocoa, MARS is considering the purchase of only organic beans by 2020 so Liberia has to be mindful of this. Also farmers’ inability to afford and sustain the use of pesticides and fungicides coupled with credible input distributors in Liberia is a challenge which the project must address. Again, the knowledge of farmers in the application of such chemicals may have to be addressed to avoid misapplication and also hazard to health of farmers and also plants.

Consumer and environmental friendliness issues need to be carefully considered. The infestation of crops with pests and diseases means that for Liberia the rehabilitation of trees particularly cocoa would require indeed a combination of low and high input models to maximize production levels.

Counties and Districts: Selection of specific counties and districts for the project needs to be further investigated to ensure that all those with the highest potential are targeted. Previous projects did not embark on detailed studies to characterize the selection of counties and districts and hence some opportunities were lost in maximizing the gains that could have been made.

Land: There is huge availability of land for the project since land is currently being under-utilized by farmers in their subsistence, slash and burn, shifting cultivation and rotational farming practices. However critical issues relating to titling and deeding of land is still uncommon in Liberia especially among farmers and the project need ensure that lands are properly documented to avoid possible future conflicts and litigation.

Economic Benefits: Focus on horticulture and crop farming may not yield many benefits to ordinary farmers and the introduction of tree crops has the potential of revamping the economy however this has to be done with proper linkages with ongoing projects in the ministry like the food security project to ensure that this is not compromised.

Produce Marketing and Input Suppliers: The availability of credible input distributors and also marketing agencies at farm gates remain one of the major considerations to be given by the project. Current operating agencies may not be able to meet the future demands which will be driven by the project.

Value Addition: The main benefit that is likely to accrue to the tree crop sector is tied to the introduction of value addition before exports. This would also support more employment avenues especially for the youth and women who may not be directly involved in the actual cultivation and farming of tree crops.

Technology: Avenues for the introduction of modern technology especially for the processing of produce must be well investigated by the project and the various options included in the project implementation. Current processing of tree crop products especially oil palm is done manually and more needs to be invested into modern and appropriate technology. Gender Equity and Youth Involvement: An analysis of the roles and responsibilities of the various groups especially women and the youth need to be analyzed to ensure their involvement at all levels.

Capacity Building: The project must focus on developing capacities for more sustainable extension support for farmers to ensure adoption of sustainable mechanisms at all levels. Farmers associations and groups may require the most capacity building since there are currently fragmented groups scattered without any proper mobilization.

Modeling: The ESMF should incorporate practical models and guidelines for a more sustainable implementation in Liberia and still be mindful of existing international standards.

Synergies and linkages: It is important for the project to ensure that proper synergies and linkages are established with some ongoing projects in the tree crops sector for instance the ACDI/VOCA and IITA Small Tree Crops Project (STCP). Also current infrastructural projects by the government including road infrastructural development may have to be considered.

Stakeholder involvement needs to be enhanced using existing structures especially at the community levels and also avoid duplication of efforts. There are a number of ongoing projects and these must be harmonized for communities to benefit more.

Survey instruments: Detail studies must review study instruments to ensure that critical issues are identified including the number of potential farmers and farms to be targeted by the project.
Where necessary the project formulation coordinator explained the various components of the project and further elaborated the processes that will be followed to ensure that the design took into consideration all the pertinent issues discussed for the design team to ensure a more holistic project.

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