MONROVIA, Liberia, Sept. 4, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In a Farmer-to-Farmer capstone event in Liberia on August 30, 2013, U.S. Ambassador to Liberia Deborah R. Malac and Liberian Vice President Joseph N. Boakai praised the program, which strengthens the country's horticulture and livestock sectors by bringing expert U.S. volunteers to Liberia to provide technical assistance.

Farmer-to-Farmer in Liberia is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by international development nonprofit ACDI/VOCA. The program connects technical volunteers with farmers, farm groups and agribusinesses in developing and transitional countries.

Farmers Play Crucial Role in Liberia's Post-Civil-War Economy

During the program's closing ceremony at City Hall in Monrovia, Vice President Boakai spoke of the important role farmers play in building the economy and providing jobs.

The ceremony and a farmers' market were part of a two-day celebration. The program's farmers gathered on August 29 for an all-day panel discussion on inputs, marketing and financing. "If you are poor and alone, you can't make it. We have to come together," Program Manager Patrick Yattoh reminded the farmers.

U.S. Expert Volunteers Impart Knowledge, Raise Incomes

Three volunteers and their hosts highlighted their experiences during the event. Speakers recounted how volunteers helped Augustine Moore, who works in aquaculture, fatten his fish and sell fingerlings, boosting his annual income from under $500 to $5,000 over the course of a year. "Knowledge is power and power is money," said Moore. "The knowledge is with you forever."

Ambassador Malac noted that one in five Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers are women and 40 percent of those trained by the program are women. "Women, just like men, have a critical role to play here in Liberia," the ambassador said.

Farmer-to-Farmer Program Benefits Over 20,000

Since its inception in 1985, the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer program has leveraged more than $43 million of professional time through ACDI/VOCA, which was the program's first implementer. Over the past five years, ACDI/VOCA Farmer-to-Farmer programs in Ghana, Liberia, Mali and Nigeria have reached over 20,000 beneficiaries.

At the capstone event, Ambassador Malac was enthusiastic about a continued relationship between the U.S. and Liberian governments and the Farmer-to-Farmer program.

ACDI/VOCA Marks 50 Years of Expanding Opportunities Worldwide

This year ACDI/VOCA celebrates 50 years of empowering people to succeed in the global economy. The international development organization was founded by U.S. farmer cooperatives to build local capacity and create sustainable economic growth. ACDI/VOCA has fostered broad-based economic growth, raised living standards and created vibrant communities in 146 countries.

"ACDI/VOCA was established by member-owned, market-oriented U.S. farmer cooperatives, so you could say local capacity building is in our DNA," said Carl Leonard, ACDI/VOCA's president and CEO. Over 90 percent of ACDI/VOCA's staff is locally hired. Today, the organization works with over 3,000 local partner organizations and institutions as it implements 78 projects in 35 countries on behalf of public, private and multilateral funders.

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Anja Tranovich,