|Purchase for Progress: Food Security in Liberia|
Africa Development Corp’s Rice Purchase Program in Liberia:
"Purchase for Progress"
Planting lowland rice in the new paddies
Purchase for Progress is an innovative agricultural project of Africa Development Corps in collaboration with the World Food Programme(WFP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in rural Liberia.
Purchase for Progress addresses problems of economic development, food security, and availability of food aid with a three-step process that puts the tools to create a better future directly in the hands of Liberians.
1. ADC sells seed to Liberian farmers for lowland rice farming, provides them with tools and training, and helps them expand their rice fields into unplanted land.
2. ADC provides a guaranteed buyer for the rice at a fair market price.
3. ADC and WFP then distribute the rice as food aid in Liberia, primarily to free school lunch programs. The school lunches decrease child hunger and malnutrition, increase attendance, and aid learning.
Purchase for Progress is a locally based program that benefits everyone: the farmers and their communities that grow rice economically and have a stable source of food and revenue, the donors whose money goes much further by cutting out the incredible costs of shipping food overseas, and the schoolchildren and teachers who receive free lunches and who are better nourished, able to learn, and eager to come to school each day as a result.
The initial phase of the P for P program aims to train and empower farmers to create sustainable farmlands and rice harvests. P for P provides support to farmers to rehabilitate unplanted swampland and grow lowland rice. Lowland (swamp) rice is superior to upland rice farming for several reasons. The residents of Lofa and Bong counties previously used upland rice farming methods, which are very low-yield and require using the “slash and burn” method of clearing trees in order to create farmable land. This method also requires creating new farmland on a regular basis as the soil becomes depleted, while lowland rice farming allows the fields to be re-used once they are created. In comparison, lowland rice growing produces two to three times more rice yield per acre, and because of the tropical climate and the ability to control water year-round, the lowland farms are able to support three full growing seasons, as compared to only one with upland rice. The difference ADC hopes to make by introducing lowland rice farming and assisting with the more labor-intensive startup involved is the difference between subsistence farming and commercial farming. Commercial-level farming in these counties can provide food for the rest of the community long-term and benefit food relief programs such as the WFP by providing sources of local food for distribution.
The work of the Purchase for Progress initiative in Liberia began March 2010 in rural Lofa and Bong counties. By August 2010, 20 communities in these two counties had become beneficiaries of the P for P program. Food distribution to schools and women’s groups was also taking place on a regular basis. Although the project had a challenging start, especially when it came to getting the community involved in the long-term goals of the project, the tools and food provided by ADC in these counties in 2010 boosted community participation in many areas. With the inputs of seed rice and fertilizer from FAO, farmers began to develop an increased interest in the swamp rehabilitation project. Supervision and technical support from ADC and other partners created interest in lowland farming and showed farmers that it is a viable alternative to upland farming. This led to increased participation and enthusiasm for the rehabilitation of swampland into productive rice paddies, a key element needed to expand overall food production.
By November 2010, the P for P program had expanded to work with over 30 communities and women’s groups. The swamp rehabilitation projects and canal building projects for 2010 were complete in half of the communities in the program, and half the communities in Bong and Lofa were already harvesting their first rice crop. The harvesting of the rice crop was especially encouraging to the local participants because it allowed them to see the payoff of all their hard work. By the end of the project’s first phase in December 2010, four dams had been constructed, 353.8 hectares of swampland had been rehabilitated and planted with rice, and harvesting was underway and/or selling of the rice was being performed in all of the beneficiary communities.
The lessons learned from the 2010 program in the best methods of implementation have been subsequently applied to the 2011 P for P initiative, which is ongoing. The project continues to expand in Bong and Lofa counties to provide food for school lunches and women’s groups throughout their communities. The program is working to transition from direct food aid into long-term development in these counties so that, whether or not the World Food Program and Africa Development Corps remain in these areas, residents will have seen a lasting improvement in their farming and their food security.