Local Farmers Develop New Skills, Business Relationships
What started as a small, one-time lettuce sale to U.S. embassy personnel is growing into the first farmers’ market in Monrovia, Liberia.
Fresh, market-quality produce is hard to come by in import-reliant Monrovia. However, a few months ago a local farmer supplied high-quality lettuce to U.S. embassy personnel.
The ensuing feedback was so positive that the community liaison officer offered to host a bi-weekly farmers’ market on embassy grounds. Since then, entrepreneurial farmers have earned triple the prices that local traders would have paid and are establishing new business skills and relationships.
Build Farmers’ Skills, Connect Farmers to Market
Since farm-fresh vegetables and fruit are scarce in Monrovia—and the demand is growing and consistent—ACDI/VOCA’s Agriculture for Children’s Empowerment (ACE) program identified it as an untapped market that could benefit local farmers and buyers alike.
The initiative serves as a small part of other larger market linkages ACE has facilitated. The goal is to create incentives among farmers to be more responsive to market opportunities and adopt farming practices that increase their competitiveness.
Farmers Earn Triple Prices from Embassy Sales
During the last two markets, each farmer made an average of $100 in sales–three times more than they would have dealing through local traders.
Produce sold includes lettuce, Chinese cabbage, radish, tomatoes, onion, herbs, eggplant, bitter balls, hot pepper, plantains, papaya and pineapple. All are typically imported, a trend that ACDI/VOCA wants to change.
Success Builds Business Relationships, Long-term Opportunities
Building on this initial success, ACE is working with other partners to open another farmers’ market to target businesses in Monrovia's hospitality and retail food sectors.
Although a small initiative, the farmers’ markets offer an opportunity for farmers to slowly change perceptions about what kind and quality of produce Liberian smallholder farmers are able to supply. These trust- and relationship-building activities are essential to building long-term market opportunities.
Greater Economic Security for Liberians
Launched in 2008, ACE is a learning project funded through USAID's Displaced Children and Orphans Fund. The project increases economic security of farming households to improve the welfare of Liberian children.
ACE works with smallholder farmers in Bong, Montserrado and Nimba counties. The program emphasizes a value chain approach, working as possible with and through existing market structures and emerging private sector players.
Long-term Food Security, Economic Growth for Liberians
Despite the challenges in Liberia's nascent agricultural sector, ACE recognizes the long-term importance to Liberia's food security and economic growth of strengthening commercially based relationships, information flows, benefits, and trust among buyers, input suppliers and smallholders.
Partners include agro-chemical input suppliers, Liberia’s Cuttington University, rice and vegetable seed sellers as well as buyers for local markets and higher-value import-substitution crops.
Pictured at top left: A buyer considers produce at the farmers' market held at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia.