In Liberia, two out of every three people rely on agriculture for their main source of income. Still, most farmers struggle to survive, and food insecurity and malnutrition remain common in rural areas. Weaknesses in the agricultural value chain—from a reliance on low-quality inputs to an absence of well-functioning markets—pose serious obstacles to economic advancement.
BRAC takes a comprehensive, long-term approach to promoting economic development among smallholder farmers. After developing deep expertise on local conditions, the organization customizes, tests, and scales a set of proven programs. Together, these programs create a foundation on which people can escape poverty through their own effort.
Why We Invest
BRAC Liberia, a division of the global development organization BRAC, applies a systems lens to its work. It identifies and then seeks to improve, elements of infrastructure and market capacity that are necessary for sustained economic development in rural Liberia. To enable lasting change, the organization works to strengthen each link in the agricultural value chain—from the provision of high-quality seeds to the operation of efficient markets. The ultimate goal is to foster long-term self-sufficiency among farmers.
A core intervention of BRAC is the Agriculture and Livestock program. First developed in Bangladesh and subsequently adapted to eight other countries in Africa and Asia, this program aims to improve both the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and the value chain on which they rely. Participating farmers undergo agricultural training and gain access to inputs—including seeds, fertilizer, and tools—that are designed to increase crop yields and livestock production. The program specifically targets women, who make up more than 60% of all farmers who receive training from BRAC.
BRAC also trains and deploys extension service providers—known as community agriculture and livestock promoters—who visit farmers on a regular basis to advise on best practices and to sell inputs such as improved seeds and poultry vaccinations. These providers work as unpaid volunteers, but they are able to generate a small income from the sale of inputs. In addition, the organization takes steps to ensure that key inputs are affordable and readily accessible. It works through the private sector by investing in agricultural businesses that help create more efficient links across the value chain. And, where necessary, BRAC develops its own social enterprises; it currently operates a poultry hatchery, a feed mill, and a seed farm.
In keeping with the philosophy of its parent organization, BRAC Liberia regularly conducts evaluations of its work. In one study, the BRAC research team found that participants who received support through the Agriculture and Livestock program were able to increase income from poultry farming by 92% and income from rice production by 29%.
How We Partner
With funding from King Philanthropies, BRAC is reaching thousands of Liberian farmers through the implementation of the Agriculture and Livestock program. The organization is also working to strengthen supply chains and agricultural markets that serve Liberian farmers. By expanding the capacity of its poultry, feed, and seed operations, for example, BRAC is increasing the availability and affordability of key inputs. Together, these improvements to agricultural value chains in Liberia will lead to higher incomes—and thus to greater food security—among farmers. Importantly, BRAC is incorporating climate-smart practices into all of this work.
To ensure that gains in income and food security translate into improved health and child development outcomes, BRAC is leveraging support from King Philanthropies to deliver nutrition programs in target communities. These efforts focus in particular on reaching pregnant women and nursing mothers.
A chicken belonging to a general poultry farmer trained by BRAC with its recently laid eggs. Watco Camp Community, Grand Bassa County, Liberia. Photo: BRAC
Day-old chicks flock together at the BRAC Poultry Hatchery and Feed Mill in Buchanan, Liberia. Photo: BRAC
A farmer who takes part in a BRAC project tends his land in Grand Bassa County, Liberia. Photo: BRAC
Farm items are on display at a shop owned by an entrepreneur in Buchanan, Liberia, who receives support from BRAC. Photo: BRAC
Emmanuel, a community livestock and poultry promoter, visits farmers as part of a BRAC project in Grand Bassa County, Liberia. Photo: BRAC
Learning and leading in Liberia
“My mother was a leader for women,” said Harriet. Along with tending a farm, Harriet’s mother mobilized women in her community to help one another and to tackle local issues. Some of Harriet’s most vivid childhood memories are of times when she watched her mother lead community meetings.
Today, Harriet credits her mother with inspiring her own work as a leader. Among other roles, she serves as a community agriculture promoter for BRAC. “My mother used to tell me, ‘Follow my footsteps. To be together will bring peace to the community,’” Harriet recalled.
Harriet lives in a rural area near Buchanan, a port city in Liberia. Some years ago, she moved there from Monrovia, the nation’s capital, and began to tend crops in a garden on her property. When the garden began to show results, local women started coming by to express interest in learning how to farm.
Even before she encountered BRAC, Harriet organized a women’s farming group in her community. The group created a joint savings system for its members. Each week, 40 women from the group came together and contributed 100 Liberian dollars to a pool, and two of the women received 2,000 Liberian dollars from the pool. The women received these large sums on a rotating basis, and they typically invested the money in their farms.
When BRAC came to Harriet’s community, her fellow residents immediately identified her as a natural fit for the role of community agriculture promoter. In that role, Harriet takes responsibility for working with more than 40 smallholder farmers across two farming areas in the Buchanan region.
One by one, Harriet visits the farmers. She helps them learn climate-smart agricultural techniques that will boost their productivity, and she troubleshoots any challenges that they face. She also sells crucial inputs—such as seeds and fertilizer—that farmers need to maximize their crop yield and their income.
Training sessions offered by BRAC have helped Harriet improve her own farming practices. She discovered new techniques, such as how to plant crops with appropriate spacing and how to plant cassava on mounds to make them grow larger. These techniques have enabled her to boost her income, which she uses to support six children.
Harriet has certainly followed in her mother’s footsteps. She plans to continue maintaining her own farm while also helping other women to improve their farms—and their lives. “I am a woman leader, so I mobilize women together,” she said.