Meet the engineer taking a bet on cassava production amid COVID-19
By Archie Sei Bob Yini
In Liberia, the Coronavirus has so far impacted people’s spending behavior in the agriculture sector. Operators along the agricultural value chain in the country are developing strategies to survive the time instead of embarking on a new adventure.
But, Abayormie Weifu, a Construction engineer based in Nimba County, is doing quite the opposite. He is spending his cash on the production of cassava in spite of the impact of COVID-19 on the agriculture sector.
COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on operations along the agricultural value chain in Liberia. From soil preparation for planting season to accessing agro-inputs, and from harvesting seasonal crops to transporting them to markets across cities, the virus has its worsts on activities in the sector, thus fusing panic over food security in the near future.
However, Weifu believes that worries over food security should be the main factor driving participation along the agricultural value chain.
“Food scarcity is something to think about because these neighboring countries that export food to [Liberia] are also impacted by the virus. So we might not have much to eat if we are depending on the importation of food from neighboring countries after this is over. But, we can have food if we see this as a reason why we should increase production in the agriculture sector,” says Weifu.
He grows the “yellow” cassava, a variety that is rich in vitamin A on five of his fifteen acres.
Weifu who started his farming journey in April, two weeks after the Liberian government imposed a partial lockdown across the country, hopes to explore other opportunities along the cassava value chain in Liberia. He believes that value addition activities would increase the yield rate of cassava in the country.
“There is so much to do with cassava and people in other parts of Africa are already benefiting from exploring these opportunities along the cassava value chain. Value addition is the only way to increase the production of cassava. If we have more people turning cassava into other products, there will be a demand for cassava, and that demand will drive a farmer to expand his farm because there is an existing market,” says Weifu.
Cassava is the second staple food in Liberia and it is the basis of a multitude of products worldwide including flour, animal feed, alcohol, starches for sizing paper and textiles, sweeteners, prepared foods, and bio-degradable products.