REAP is launching several innovative and sustainable revenue-generating social impact projects in the Liberian agriculture space (under the auspices of REAP Ventures) to spur sustainable local food production, create jobs, and enhance the local economy while promoting self-sufficiency, entrepreneurship, and resiliency in the community.
The first intervention will be the launch of a Diversified Farm, consisting of closed-loop integrated fish farming, pig farming, and goat farming supplemented by horticulture and cultivation of cassava, soybeans, plantains, corn, and oil palm on REAP’s Bentol City Campus (50 acres of land) to serve as a model closed-loop agricultural demonstration project for sustainable food production and local economic development. Close-looped agricultural systems are recognized for offering significant benefits to farmers, agricultural enterprises, communities, and the environment by reducing external inputs, minimizing waste, maximizing resource utilization, and optimizing production while contributing to more resilient communities and spurring local economic growth.
A pig farm was recently established on REAP’s campus in Bentol City through a strategic partnership, goats are being acquired, and the construction of the integrated solar-powered aquaponics fishpond and greenhouses has begun – with an estimated completion time of August 2023. The greenhouses will produce cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, ginger, and peppers for local consumption and export. This closed-loop ecosystem will enable the recycling of nutrients from fish waste to grow and fertilize crops on the pig farm and vegetables in the greenhouses, while nutrient-rich pig manure can be used as an additional food source for the fish, providing a sustainable source of feed and organic fertilizer. Waste from the pig farm will also be utilized for biofuel generation for cooking and for sale. The symbiotic relationship in which waste products from one system become inputs for the others makes this an innovative close-looped intervention that decreases costs, increases profitability, diversifies income streams, and is environmentally sustainable. Our goal is to introduce new approaches, sustainable models, and technologies to our agricultural practices to enhance capacity, optimize productivity, and increase our impact in the community, thereby emerging as a preeminent accelerator and “Center for Excellence in Agricultural Sustainability, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship”, while serving as a regional hub for agribusiness value addition, aggregation, warehousing, and cold storage solutions.
REAP intends on utilizing RETRAP grant funding to significantly scale our operations for greater social impact in the community. Additionally, the project will provide training and capacity building to staff, local farmers (primarily women) involved in the project, and students in the Agriculture Department at the REAP-VTCI. Graduates of the REAP VTCI will also be provided with seed capital to replicate and establish similar operations in other counties throughout Liberia, thereby expanding our reach and deepening our impact across the country.
Our second intervention aims to enhance the fish, pig, and goat breeding programs in Liberia to optimize the production of high-quality fish, pigs, and goats with better growth rates, meat quality, and resistance to disease. Integral to this effort is improving the quality and quantity of feed and overall nutritional intake for enhanced growth and meat quality. We are keen on cultivating soybeans, corn, cassava, palm oil (palm kernel cakes), and plantains on the 50 acres of land to become self-sufficient in feed production for our operations, and surplus to enable us to be a key supplier of nutritious pig, chicken, and fish feed for local farmers and the wider Liberian market. Crop rotation and cover cropping, or planting different crops in sequence alongside one another, is being implemented to help break pest and disease cycles, enhance nutrient cycling, and improve soil health. This diversification of crops will reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, creating a more closed-loop system.
Our third intervention entails resourcing, equipping, and empowering community farmers, agribusinesses, market women, and youth through the establishment of Agribusiness Centers for Resourcing and Empowerment (ACRE). REAP-ACRE Hubs will offer commodity aggregation, warehousing, cold storage solutions, marketing, and value-addition services. The Hubs will be integrated with a customized APP, web-based platform, and digital technologies to address the issue of post-harvest loss and spoilage due to a lack of cold storage facilities, high transportation costs, and unreliable supply chains. Several members of the Pig Farmers Association of Liberia recently identified the following key challenges to growth and profitability: lack of access to storage, preservation mechanisms, packaging, and electricity. The ACRE Hubs will provide a sustainable solution to this challenge by introducing warehousing, cold storage, preservation, and processing solutions to reduce waste and spoilage, thereby increasing local farmer income. The Hub will also offer tailored business support to agribusinesses, and access to financial resources and human capital to catalyze business growth while spurring rural economic transformation.
Our fourth intervention will be the integration of a Warehouse Receipt System with a Joint Social Impact Venture Fund or partnership with a local bank to provide micro-loans to farmers and small businesses (utilizing ware-housed crops and cold-stored items as collateral). Post-harvest losses resulting from spoilage and waste are a tremendous challenge for farmers. Market and price fluctuations also pose serious risks for single commodity farmers, while selling during periods of high market supply yields lesser profits for farmers. This warehousing and cold-storage solution will enable farmers to store products during periods of low market demand and sell them when prices are more favorable, thereby reaping a greater harvest and high-profit margins. Additionally, the ACRE Hubs will provide low-interest loans to farmers to purchase inputs for the next farming cycle and for preservation and processing activities.