1. Liberia: World Food Programme gives rice farmers a reason to keep growing (by Prince Collins, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Monrovia, Liberia)

| August 24, 2009

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Patience Kollie lives in a tiny Liberian village where you can feel the ocean breeze. She gets up every morning and makes her way to a nearby rice field. This morning she prepares her farming tools as usual.

Ms. Kollie’s daily life is not much different from other farmers who have resettled after Liberia’s civil war. She lists some of the challenges people faced in re-establishing farms. Some fields were overgrown with thick forest. Others were littered with landmines or had been used as mass graves. Poor road conditions made it difficult to buy farming inputs and sell crops.

Help has come from the World Food Programme, or WFP. Normally, WFP provides assistance by giving food aid. In this case, they are supporting Liberia’s small-scale farmers by purchasing food. It’s part of a new WFP initiative called Purchase for Progress. The initiative buys crops from local, small-scale farmers. The food is then distributed to people in need.

In Liberia, WFP purchased rice from 4,000 small-scale farmers. The rice is used for school feeding programs in three counties: Bong, Nimba, and Lofa. The feeding program is a strategy to interest children in going to school.
Meanwhile, Liberian farmers earn money by selling rice to WFP. Ms. Kollie is a single mother of four. Farming is her only source of income. Thanks to the WFP program, she no longer has difficulty selling her rice. The money she earns helps her send her children to school.

Lansanah Wonneh is coordinator of WFP’s Purchase for Progress program. He says WFP has placed standing orders with the rice farmers. The farmers can now rely on the program to purchase their crops. In this way, the initiative empowers local farmers to get the maximum benefit from their fields.

Jerry Jallah is another local rice farmer. He, too, used to have difficulty selling his rice. He couldn’t reach the market by road. Mr. Jallah says that the Purchase for Progress program has given local farmers a reason to be happy. “In fact, it has given us the courage to plant more rice every planting season,” he says.