The International Trade Centre (ITC), in collaboration with the Farmers Union Network of Liberia (FUNL), started a week-long training program on the importance of cooperatives for coffee producers. The goal is to assist them in the process of creating coffee cooperatives in Liberia to boost revenues.
The training started on July 4, 2023, in Gbarnga, Bong County, and it is expected to extend to Lofa and Nimba counties in the next few days. The training is being organized by ITC and FUNL under the ITC/ACP EU funded Business Friendly Coffee Project of Liberia.
Before the Liberian civil war, the country was a major producer and exporter of cocoa and coffee products. But since the end of the war, the coffee sector in particular has been dormant. With support from the EU, the project is working to reactivate the coffee sector to improve the livelihood of producers.
The project has trained farmers on harvest and post-harvest losses, stumping and pruning of old coffee farms, the propagation of Robusta and Liberica coffee, and facilitated regional visits to coffee producing countries.
Speaking at the start of the workshop, the coffee expert from Burundi, Ephrem Sabatigita, said “Liberia has a very great potential for coffee production, but to make coffee more marketable, we need to transition the farming associations into cooperatives”.
He also stated that he was in Liberia to assess the coffee production environment and to ensure that farmers are educated on how they can develop their coffee farming businesses.
The Program and Project Director at the Cooperative Development Agency (CDA), Harris B. Wennie, said that his institution is working with the ITC and FUNL to ensure that coffee farmers Associations are transformed into cooperatives. “We appreciate the capacity building for farmers, especially the process of educating the farmers on the need to transition into cooperatives. This is the only way that coffee farmers can get more money from their labor,” he said.
“The coffee market is volatile. Many of the farmers sell their coffee to neighbouring countries [and get] very little profit. We now have many of our coffee farmers who have inherited farms from their parents and have returned to active coffee farming,” he added.
ITC and FUNL are working in collaboration with the CDA and the Ministry of Agriculture to establish three coffee cooperatives in Bong, Nimba, and Lofa counties.