Africa Rice, in collaboration with the Government of Liberia and SAPEC, has begun a three week workshop for 20 artisans to build modern ASI rice threshers in Gbarnga, Bong County.
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, the Country Representative of Africa Rice Liberia Dr. Inoussa Akintayo disclosed that Liberia spends over US$200m a year on food importation.
He stated that the artisans will be trained by three professional staff of DESFABENG Company Ltd of Nigeria while a Liberian, Mr. Benedict Sampson who is the Chief Executive Officer of Moonlight Metal Works in Gbarnga and one of the participants.
The workshop, when completed, he said will enable local farmers to be able construct their own locally made rice threshers to strengthen the production of rice.
“Rice is a major staple food in Africa in general and in Liberia in particular, but despite favorable conditions, including adequate rainfall, fertile land, good sunshine, Liberia continues to spend over USD200m every year to import rice to close the gap of local production,” Dr. Akintayo said.
The Director for the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI), Dr. Walter Wiles, called on the participants to take advantage of the training to build up their skills and contribute to food security in the country.
“Why we keep asking ourselves whether the country can feed itself, the issue of Liberia feeding herself can’t be done alone but through the participation of farmers, by giving them the responsibility to grow food and building their capacities through training and provision of logistical support,” Dr. Wiles said.
He used the medium to thanked Africa Rice and partners for their immense contribution to the country’s agriculture sector and pledged CARI’s support to farmers by helping them acquire the knowledge to make a change in the agricultural sector.
Representing the 20 farmers, Mohammed Hamilton disclosed that participants hoped to achieve better knowledge on fabricating threshers to expand the production of rice in Liberia.
“Let us work and organize a network that will bring us together as we join our hands in helping to contribute to the agriculture activities through our works to move this country forward,” Hamilton said.
Thomas Gbokie, Deputy Minister for Research and Extension at the Ministry of Agriculture, stressed the significance of mechanized farming and encouraged the participants to focus and learn as much as they can.
“Feeding ourselves requires us moving from the labor cost intensive to mechanized farming. We need to work together. There is a shift towards agriculture and we are here because there is a need to look at agriculture in a new way and it’s through such means that we can promote farmers in food production,” he said.
Meanwhile, the agronomist of SAPEC Project, Mr. Emmanuel Vah, Jr. explained that his organization is closely working with Africa Rice and GoL to implement those key issues that are affecting local farmers.
“We are working on four major parts of this initiative which include sustainable crop production and SAPEC will develop 1000 acres of low land, 500 hectares for vegetable production, will rehabilitate 270 kilometers road for famers to have easy access of farm to market roads, and improve mechanized farming among others,” he said.