FARMERS’ PERCEIVED IMPACT OF THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR REHABILITATION PROJECT ON THEIR LIVELIHOODS IN CAREYSBURG AND TODEE DISTRICTS, LIBERIA

ABSTRACT
The Agricultural Sector Rehabilitation Project (ASRP) is one of key rural development projects whose impact is yet to be understood. The purpose of the study was to determine farmers’ perceived impact of the ASRP on their livelihoods in Careysburg and Todee districts, Liberia. The study sought to describe the socio-economic characteristics of farmers who participated in the project, ascertain the perceptions of beneficiaries on the relevance of the ASRP and examine the perceived levels of impact of the ASRP on the livelihoods of farmers. The study also sought to determine the socio-economic characteristics of farmers influencing their perception of the relevance and livelihood impact of the ASRP. Descriptive survey design was used for the study. One hundred and ninety farmers who were beneficiaries of the ASRP took part in the study. Both closed and open-ended questionnaire items were used to elicit responses from the farmers. The data collected from the questionnaires were analyzed using SPSS version 20. The study revealed that most of the ASRP beneficiaries had been small-scale(less than 0.5ha for rice and cassava) farmers for at least ten years. The majority (83%) felt the key components (inputs provision and training) were not relevant to their needs. However, the project was perceived to have had a moderate impact on the livelihoods of the farmers. The socio-economic characteristics of farmers accounted for 10.5% of the variations of farmers’ perception of the relevance of the ASRP with alternative sources of income as the best predictors. Similarly, socio-economic characteristics accounted for 19.2% of the variations in beneficiary farmers’ livelihoods impact of the project with production type as the best predictor.


CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION
Background to the Study
Agriculture is the world’s most important industry. It provides us with all our food. Agriculture also supplies materials for two other basic needs-clothing and shelter. In addition, agriculture provides materials in making industrial products. About half the world’s workers are employed in agriculture far more than in any other industry (The World Book Encyclopedia, 2001).

Agriculture creates most of the jobs in Africa. Aside from the North and Southern African countries, some oil-producing countries in the Gulf of Guinea, and notable exceptions such as Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon, agriculture accounts for half or more of the working population (NEPAD, 2013).

The agricultural population in Africa stands at 530 million people, and is expected to exceed 580 million by 2020. The population relying on agriculture accounts for 48% of the total African population (almost 70% in East Africa). A special feature of African agriculture in comparison to the rest of the world over the last 30 years is that the sector has continued to absorb a large proportion of the working population; half of all new entrants to Africa’s working population have turned to agriculture (NEPAD, 2013).

African economies have undergone tremendous change over the last 20 years. After the 1990s, which were generally characterised by low growth rates, African economies in the 2000s experienced strong, regular growth, with an average annual growth rate of 5.2%. However, the transition to more diversified economies is difficult to initiate. A significant proportion of growth occurring in the 2000s is linked to the rise in food prices and the volumes of mining and oil products exported by a few African countries, whose profits are not always equally and sustainably reinvested in economic diversification (NEPAD, 2013). African governments are increasingly concerned to bring about an agricultural revolution which will improve production. However, governments may facilitate, stimulate and promote growth of agriculture production; success must ultimately depend on the decisions of multitude of farm households making up the agricultural industry. In short, agricultural development must occur at the farm level.

In most of Africa, rural people make up the majority of the poor and disadvantaged. Many of the urban unemployed have recently migrated from their villages in the hope of improving their welfare. For this reason, increased crop and livestock production is needed to raise farm incomes, improve the level of living and reduce the rate of migration from rural areas.

In Liberia like most African countries, agriculture is the main occupation. Many families raise crops on small plots of land owned by their communities. Cassava, rice, sugar cane, and tropical fruits are the major food crops. Most Liberian farmers use old fashioned farming methods, and only a few have modern farming techniques. The farmers produce agricultural goods mainly for their own families, and so there is little to sell. As a result, the country must import much of its food (The World Book Encyclopedia, 2001).

Liberia’s agricultural sector is forest based and it is dominated by traditional subsistence farming systems mainly in the upland areas (Ministry of Agriculture [MOA], 2008). The farming system is characterised by high labour intensity, shifting cultivation, and low technologies and low productivity. Production of rice and vegetables occupy about 87% of cultivated land. Small acreages of tree crops are maintained for generating cash income. Commercial agricultural activities in Liberia are almost exclusively made up of plantation estates of rubber, oil palm, coffee and cocoa, the latter two are produced exclusively for export, with little value addition done for rubber and oil palm. Besides the plantation estates, very little private sector investment has taken place in the agricultural sector (MOA, 2008; Anyane, 1988).

The agricultural sector in Liberia is therefore a strategic industry which accounts for the employment of nearly 70% of the economically active population, and over 90% of total exports. It as well as makes significant contributions to the Gross Domestic Production (GDP) during and after the war, (about 52% in 2005). The value chains of the sector’s commodities possess tremendous potential for improved access to food, remunerative employment, and improved livelihoods of the rural people. The agriculture sector has over the years, and increasingly during the recent past, significantly contributed to the Liberian economy. The contribution of agriculture (including fisheries) to GDP was around 10 percent in the late 1970s. During the war years, the sector provided the mainstay of the economy and the only meaningful source of livelihood to a large segment of the population, including the displaced and conflict affected. Agriculture related imported products, of which food and life animals account for 37.6%, amounted to well over half of total imports in the post war period, second only to petroleum products.

The agricultural sector is proving itself valuable to recovery and development efforts, and central to peace building in Liberia. Resumption of farming activities has enhanced food security and assisted in sustaining resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees and conflict affected communities, as well as creating employment for women and youth. As a major source of growth in the country, investment in revitalizing the value chains of agricultural commodities will significantly improve access to food, generate sustainable, remunerative employment, and improve livelihoods of rural communities, thereby significantly contributing to the consolidation of peace, stability, economic recovery and development.

The sector is however, confronted with several challenges, mainly structural in nature (low capacities of farmers and institutions as well as damaged infrastructures). Increasing the productivity and incomes of Liberia’s subsistence farmers may require the transformation of the agricultural sector by transforming them into commercial farmers through the adoption of new techniques and technologies, improving access to seeds, fertilizers, and other inputs, diversifying their enterprises and strengthening linkages to input and output markets (MOA, 2008).

Overall, the food security situation in Liberia remains weak. The latest report of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFRI) categorizes the food security situation as ‘alarming’ with a Global Hunger Index of 24.3; and that Liberia is highly vulnerable to global economic downturns (IFPRI, 2010). While the country is blessed with a climate favorable to agriculture, extensive biodiversity, and vast natural resources, decades of war and low economic and social investments have ravaged Liberia’s productive assets (IFPRI, 2012). Liberia only produces about 40 percent of the rice it needs to feed its population, relying on expensive imports to cover the rest (FAO, 2014). The production of rice – the most important staple – fell by 76 percent between 1987 and 2005 (MOA, 2008; FAO, 2014). A comprehensive assessment of the agriculture sector of Liberia carried out by the Government in 2006 and 2007 revealed that about 81% percent of the population was either highly vulnerable or moderately vulnerable to food insecurity (MOA, 2008). Over a third of Liberian children were stunted, and almost 20 percent were underweight. This finding led to the development of the Agricultural Sector Rehabilitation Project (ASRP) in 2007 (MOA, 2008). The purpose of the ASRP was to support national transition efforts and lay foundations for achieving long term goals of self-sufficiency and competitiveness in food production, expansion of cash crop production, increased employment and incomes, and diversification of the production base.

The Agriculture Sector Rehabilitation Project covers 30 districts located in the four North West and four South-Eastern counties of Liberia. In North West Liberia (Grand cape Mount, Bomi, Montserrado and Grand Bassa Counties) these counties had substantial number of the poor small-scale rice and cassava farmers; the highest poverty levels (65 to 80%) in the country (IFAD, 2009). In Montserrado County, the Ministry of Agriculture in partnership with Action Aid Liberia implemented the ASRP. The three-year project sought to support rural families improve their productive livelihood through the restoration of agricultural productive capacity. Beneficiaries were trained in agricultural best practices to assist them to maximize their productive capacity as they seek to be food secured.

Statement of the Problem
Agriculture is the major source of occupation for many families who raise crops on small plots of land owned by their communities. Since post-war period, the agricultural sector in Liberia has declined with now about 81% feared to be vulnerable to food insecurity. To address the problem in part, the government of Liberia through the Ministry of Agriculture introduced the ASRP to deal with the food insecurity problem through the restoration of agricultural productive capacity.

From 2010, the Ministry of Agriculture introduced a number of initiatives including the provision of agricultural inputs, training and adult literacy in two of the four districts (Careysburg and Todee) in Montserrado County. Since the first phase of the project in 2010 no empirical study has been conducted on the beneficiaries. Such research information is important for up-scaling the ASRP and for designing new and similar programmes. This information gap has been the basis for this research.

Objectives of the Study
The general objective of the study is to evaluate the perceived impact of the Agricultural Sector Rehabilitation Project on livelihoods of farmers in Careysburg and Todee Districts, Liberia.

The specific objectives of the study are to:
1. describe the socio-economic characteristics of farmers who participated in the project
2. ascertain the perception of beneficiary farmers on the relevance of the project in terms of its components
3. examine the level of impact of the ASRP on farmers’ livelihood
4. determine the socio-economic characteristics of farmers influencing their perception of the relevance of the ASRP
5. determine the socio-economic characteristics of farmers influencing perception on livelihood impact of the ASRP

Research Questions
1. What are the socio-economic characteristics of farmers who participated in the ASRP in the study areas?
2. What are the perceptions of the farmers who participated in the ASRP in the selected areas on its relevance?
3. What are the perceived levels of impact of the ASRP on the livelihoods of farmers who participated in the ASRP in the study areas?
4. What are the socio-economic characteristics of farmers influencing their perception of the relevance of the ASRP?
5. What are the socio-economic characteristics of farmers influencing livelihood impact of the ASRP?

Research Variables
The independent variables in the study are the socio-economic characteristics of beneficiaries of the ASRP.

The dependent variables in the study are the relevance and the impact of the ASRP.

Hypothesis
1. H0: There are no relationships between the socio-economic characteristics of farmers and the perceived relevance of the ASRP.
H1: There are relationships between the socio-economic characteristics of farmers and the perceived relevance of the ASRP.
2. H0: There are no relationships between the socio-economic characteristics of farmers and the perceived impact of the ASRP.
H1: There are relationships between the socio-economic characteristics of farmers and the perceived impact of the ASRP.

Justification
The study seeks to evaluate the impact of the ASRP on the lives of beneficiary farmers and how the programme may be improved if the need be. The result of the study could contribute to assessing the cost benefit analysis of the programme to ascertain whether it is worth continuing.

Based on the crucial role information plays in the formulation and implementation of agricultural policies, results from the study could provide useful information to assist government in setting priorities and formulating policies concerning improvement and sustainability of the ASRP.

The outcome of the study with respect to the impact of the various components of the programme would serve as a useful guide to donor agencies and governments when planning programmes. The study will also add to the body of knowledge so far as impact on livelihoods is concerned especially in the field of agriculture.

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Item Type: Ghanaian Project Material  |  Attribute: 121 pages  |  Chapters: 1-5
Format: MS Word  |  Price: GH50  |  Delivery: Within 30Mins.
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