Boosting smallholder farmer productivity to improve livelihoods

Oretha Togbah, a 56-year-old cocoa farmer, can now provide shelter and daily meals for herself and her household after switching to sustainable farming practices Solidaridad introduced to her.

Oretha Togbah in her cocoa farm

In 2018, when the Liberia Cocoa Sector Improvement Programme (LICSIP) launched, Solidaridad trained Oretha and more than 1,000 other farmers in cocoa agronomy and the rehabilitation of unproductive and aged farms to enable them to get more yield from their fields.   

Before the intervention, we were already planting cocoa. But clearly, we were not doing it the right way. We planted the cocoa randomly and abandoned it until it was ready for harvesting. This affected yields and our income. We had challenges right from planting, harvesting and drying the cocoa. I barely harvested 150 kilogrammes of cocoa beans from my five-acre farm.

Oretha, who lived in a one-bedroom house and shared the space with nine other family members, said it was difficult to provide for her six children and two grandchildren.

Receiving support to improve productivity

“I received training on the establishment of nurseries, transplanting young seedlings, farm management and harvesting. The most significant part of our training was intercropping. We were encouraged to plant cassava, bananas, plantains, maize and other food crops in our cocoa farms.” 

With the knowledge gained, Oretha was supported to rehabilitate a portion of her aged farm and establish a new cocoa farm with improved seedlings, which she intercropped with food crops.

Reaping the reward of hard work

“Over the past four years, the crops we harvested from our new cocoa farm have served as food for the family and a source of income through their sales. We have been able to build a house from the funds we raised from the sale of the food crops and the cocoa we harvested from the rehabilitated farm,” she said with a huge smile on her face. 

Today, Oretha has moved into her new home. 

With an anticipated high yield from her newly established cocoa farm, Oretha is hopeful to generate additional income to invest in her farm and to meet the livelihood needs of her family.  

Sylvanus Agordorku, the lead cocoa trainer at Solidaridad in Liberia, says the intercropping module encourages the planting of food crops to provide shade for the young cocoa plants while providing food and income for farmers until the cocoa reaches maturity. 

Oretha stands in front of her newly built four-bedroom house.

Providing farm support services

“The programme also promotes farmers’ access to production support services for farm intensification, rehabilitation of aged farms and the planting of new ones through the setting up of Centres for Cocoa Development (CCDs), a one-stop shop to provide sustained services for the farmers,” Sylvanus said.

Ten of the CCDs have been set up in Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties, where the LICSIP was implemented. They are now providing farming inputs and farm management services to farmers at a fee.

More than 5,000 farmers have benefited from the LICSIP, implemented by Solidaridad with funding from the European Union in Liberia. The programme has helped revitalize the Liberian cocoa sector by creating a vibrant competitive and profitable cocoa economy driven by farmers, farmers groups, associations and private sector supply chain actors.