By Ishmael F. Menkor
The newly-introduced farming method known as “conservation agriculture” launched in Nimba by ArcelorMittal and the Rural Integrated Center for Community Empowerment (RICCE), is said to be gaining momentum in communities surrounding the North Nimba Nature Reserve in Nimba County.
This new method is unlike the shifting cultivation method, which is so prevalent in Liberia: Farmers make farms on a yearly basis while moving from one place to another, cutting down and burning all the trees and bushes in their chosen areas.
By comparison, in conservation agriculture farmers make thier farm by planting a variety of crops like cassava, rice, and corn on fixed land every year, as a result, farmers do not have to dig too much into the land before planting.
In January this year, ArcelorMittal, in collaboration with RICCE, launched the first phase of their pilot project in the conservation of agriculture in the communities surrounding the reserve as a means of moving them from shifting cultivation as means of preventing the destruction of the forest.
Renee Gibson of RICCE in an overview of the project said the reason for the project is to help the community manage their forest land sustainably.
During the first phase of the project, which was launched in January this year, 60 persons were selected; among the selected group, 20 were students with demonstration sites.
She stated that the farmers were told that anything generated from the demonstration will go to the farmers’ cooperative for self sustainability.
During the visit of the Daily Observer at one of the demonstration sites where cassava was planted, the harvested cassava seemed very rich thanks to the new method of farming formulated by the RICCE.
One of the farmers, Saye Toe ,explained that in the new farming method, they do not have to continually burn their farms, but rather plant the crops after brushing, thereby leaving the bush to decay under the crops.
The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and citizens of Zor reached an agreement some years ago to co – manage the Northern Nimba Nature Reserve after years of a standoff between the FDA and communities over the surveying of the reserve.
Last year, ArcelorMittal and citizens of Gbar reached an agreement to co-manage the Gbar Community Forest located around the border with Guinea.
Meanwhile, the head of biodiversity at ArcelorMittal, Wing Crawley, had urged the citizens of Zor— where the conservation agriculture project was launched— to put what they had learned into practice.
She believed that conservation agriculture is less labor than shifting agriculture and also believed that it will increase food security in the community and the country.
The launching of phase two on the 31st October, was attended by the Nimba County Assistant Superintendent for Development, Teeko Yorlay, and former Nimba Superintendent Edith Gongloe-Weh, as well as scores of local officials of government.
Meanwhile, Mr. Yorlay has said that the government will want to see projects that will impact the lives of the communities.
“We hope to see conservation agriculture idea of ArcelorMittal/RICCE will make an impact in the community and also be a lasting sustainability,”he stated.