Scores of farmers in Compound Two, Grand Bassa County are poised to benefit from Solidaridad’s efficient mill initiative introduced in Liberia to boost palm oil extraction.
The installation of the mills is part of efforts to increase the production capacities of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), who are contributing 50% of the activity cost, as partners in the implementation of the Sustainable West Africa Palm Oil Programme (SWAPP), funded by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Ghana.
The first mill is expected to be set up in Coniwein Gbeal in Compound Two soon. On Friday, a high power delegation led by Solidaridad’s new Country Representative, Michael Doe visited the area and expressed delight over the progress made so far.
The team including officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, county authorities and local farmers visited nearby palm plantations and inspected the old methods used for oil extraction.
At the first stop, the farmers demonstrated at a pit used to pound the fresh fruits for distilling; while at the currently used and improved version, the team saw giant-sized drums used to boil the palm and a manual less efficient machine used to extract the oil.
Speaking at the end of the tour in Coniwein Gbeal, Mr. Doe said the mill, when installed will not only reduce the labor cost associated with the previous methods, but will boost the oil extraction rate from nine percent to 15 or 20 percent.
“One of the reasons we are here is to see how we can complete this mill. The old ways our people used to make oil palm will stop. The first place (first site) required a lot of work, while the second was a bit improved but required lots of work. Currently, with the old ways, the oil extraction rate is just nine percent but with the mill, it will pop up to 15 or 20 percent,” he said.
He continued: “You will have more than what you were reproducing. In addition, we trained our young people how to do palm business. So, this mill is going to be a game changer: higher oil extraction rate, create employment, less work, enable farmers to get involved in other activities, create employment and make more money. People will be encouraged to get involved in palm products.”
Also speaking, the Statutory Superintendent, Madam Nancy Kwitaa Greene, on behalf of the government extended ‘profound gratitude’ to Solidaridad for selecting her district.
She said the installation of the mill was a great achievement under her leadership as a woman official and vowed to work with the farmers to safeguard the facility for the benefit of the district and county at large.
Earlier, at a brief ceremony, the Chief Executive Officer of Local Farm Incorporated, an SME serving as one of Solidaridad’s partners under SWAPP, Franklin Jackson, flanked by some of the local farmers, said the mill will bring great relief to them as the current mill was unable to serve the farm.
Currently, he revealed that more than 25 local farmers are actively engaged with the cultivation of oil palm and the number is expected to increase.
He thanked Solidaridad and its partners for the support, and on behalf of the farmers, promised to take ownership of the mill when installed for their benefit.
At full capacity, the mill will process one tonne of fresh fruit bunches per hour, and will serve over 600 oil palm farmers and processors in and around the community.
Also speaking, J. Cyrus Saygbe Sr, Solidaridad’s Oil Palm Programme Manager in Liberia, said other mills are expected to be installed in Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties. He called on the farmers to make use of the opportunity to boost production to improve their lives.
Smallholder farmers’ quest to process their fresh fruit bunches into crude palm oil has been on the decline due to less efficient mills and, sometimes, unhygienic pits that are operated manually and require a lot of time and energy and also pose safety and environmental challenges.
These efficient mills introduced by Solidaridad, as trumpeted by key stakeholders, will address some of these challenges and prevent palm fruits from going waste.
These gains were also highlighted by Mr. Galah Toto, the Coordinator of the National Oil Palm Platform of Liberia who, as part of the excursion, said the efficient mill was a significant milestone in not only improving yield, but also mitigating environmental problems associated with the old methods.
Meanwhile, several young people, under the banner the Glarkon Youth Incorporated has hailed Solidaridad for its support and guidance in its formation.
The youth group has benefited from a modern office building and other trainings in oil palm cultivation and are poised to dedicate the structure soon.
Speaking at the building site in Glarkon, Compound Two, the group’s Chairman, Garmonyou P. Morris thanked the organization through its Country Representative and called on it to continue to stand by them to make the building and their organization fully functional.