It’s still coffee harvest season in Liberia and the training in quality control for harvest is helping or serving as motivation for farmers like Alahaij Sesay who for the past years felt very reluctant for coffee production due to the neglect of the sector.
Sesay, age 78, owned 10 acres planted with Liberica coffee variety in Voinjama District, Lofa County, a major coffee belt within the country.
Liberica is indigenous to Liberia and was largely exported to the world market before the civil war.
Sesay is highly motivated about knowledge of coffee production. But he and many other coffee farmers in Liberia abandoned the sector in the past due to the lack of support for production and market.
However, since the introduction of the ACP Business Friendly Coffee Project in Liberia, the farmers have returned to coffee farming and seemed hopeful to sustain their families.
The project is implemented by the International Trade Centre and its local partner, the Farmers Union Network of Liberia with support from the European Union.
To improve the quality of harvest and attract potential buyers, the project is currently conducting a weeklong training workshop in Lofa and Nimba counties respectively. The workshop brings together more than one hundred participants comprising farmers and extension workers from the project operated counties.
“I’m happy once more to be a part of a training workshop. The knowledge of quality control for coffee harvest is helping me greatly. Thanks to the knowledge applied this harvest season, I am anticipating better prices for my harvest,” Sasey said.
Sesay mentioned that he currently has in his warehouse 13 giant size bags of coffee beans ready for sale and he still has some areas to harvest.
“Due to the knowledge acquired, I no longer destroy the coffee beans on the tree while harvesting. I pick the ripe cherries and get them processed in the appropriate way ready for the market. Thanks to the ITC through the partners,” he said.
However, marketing of the coffee still remains a challenge for the farmers.
“We still look to the ITC to send us potential buyers,” the farmer stated.
The ITC hired a coffee expert from Burundi, Ephrem Sagtibita to train the farmers in quality control for coffee harvest.
The program was launched in 2021 and more than 300 farmers and a few extension workers have been trained in post-harvest losses of coffee production, and pruning of old coffee farms to improve yield.
Today, several of the farmers are starting the rehabilitation of their old coffee farms to improve the yield. Most farms are more than 50 years old.
The ITC has also made provision for inputs such as tools to assist the farmers manage their respective coffee farms. The project has established demo sites in Bong, Montserrado and Bomi counties to teach the farmers in coffee forestry.
Additionally, a mother seed garden has also been established at the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) to multiply seedlings for distribution to the farmers very soon.
As part of an effort to make the coffee project successful in Liberia, the ITC had sponsored trips for local stakeholders in some African countries and Europe to give them exposure about the coffee industry under the initiative.
“We intend to get the country’s record back for coffee exports. But our major challenge is the issue of potential buyers. We don’t need to continue to sell our coffee to neighboring countries and get very little profits. We want to export coffee and take the credit as a nation,” said Johnson F.T. Boie, chairman Saapia Coffee Farmers Cooperative.