The General Assembly of the West and Central Africa Council of Agriculture Research and Development (WCACARD), headquartered in Dakar, Senegal, recently elected the Team Manager of the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI), Mr. Aaron Marshall of Liberia, as its vice president.
Mr. Marshall was elected in Niamey, Niger following a consensus by the Board members at the end of a Board meeting in that West African country.
In an interview with the Daily Observer, the CARI Team Manager specified that he was also elected to serve on the board for two years as a result of the departure of Sierra Leone following the end of tenure.
Mr. Marshall informed this newspaper that he commanded favor from the assembly to serve as vice president of the WCACARD because, according to him, he is a bilingual. He speaks both English and French.
The CARI Team Manager explained that the primary objective of the WCACARD is to help cut across all the various issues that have to deal with agricultural research, lessons learned from each member country and shared with the other member countries.
He narrated that WCACARD chiefly served as oversight authority for the West Africa Agriculture Productivity Programme (WAAPP).
Mr. Marshall revealed that a recently a team from the World Bank and WCACARD visited CARI to ascertain the level of agricultural projects at the Central Agriculture Research Institute and the team was overwhelmed with the nature of works being undertaken at CARI.
“The World Bank is funding the WAAPP Liberia five-year Programme and at mid-point plans to assess the development of projects” Mr. Marshall emphasized.
At present there are 300 metric tons of improved seeds and 50 hectares of improved cassava planted at the CARI.
The Team Manager stated that at the wrap-up of the Lome meeting sometimes ago, Liberia was classified as moderately unsatisfactory, but boasted that at the recent gathering Liberia was classified as satisfactory, based on human development and agricultural productivity.
Mr. Marshall said CARI will work along with the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the Government of Liberia (GOL) to restore the productive assets of farmers and farmers’ groups and build essential infrastructure to support food production, marketing and processing activities.
Mr. Marshall newspaper that the role of the Ministry of Agriculture is to produce a level playing field through the provision of elite planting materials for farmers and farmers’ groups.
He indicated that through the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP), AfricaRice and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), CARI will provide seeds and other improved varieties to poor small-scale farmers for an affordable amount.
“CARI has planted 50 hectares of improved cassava—there are 20 different varieties of cassava that can give ten times a yield as compare to the traditional cassava known as “Bassa Girl,” Mr. Marshall explained.
The CARI Team Manager specified that there are 300 metric tons of improved seeds are available to smallholder farmers through the county agriculture coordinator but was persistent that it will not be free.
“There are many obstacles that prevent us from developing as we ought to. One of the impediments is the practice of paternalism, where we give things freely to people. Here at CARI, we do not give things free to people. You have to pay something for it” Mr. Marshall insisted.
CARI as Agriculture Institution, he said, will work with poor rural communities to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes and determine the direction of their own lives by breaking out of poverty.
“There is a high incidence of poverty in this country where the potential of agriculture is not yet realized” the CARI Team Manager declared.
Commenting on achievements over the past two years, Mr. Marshall said the institution has renovated three fish ponds for the maintenance of fingerlings that will be sold to farmers at a reasonable price, the regular supply of electricity through the provision of government subsidy, the training of farmers and extension workers on a regular basis, the procurement of new tractors and the recruitment of five PhDs from IITA and AfricaRice, who will help monitor the younger scientists by showing research mentality, research design and approaches.
On the question of challenges, Mr. Marshall informed this newspaper that due to limited housing facilities as the result of the UNMIL Bangladeshi soldiers using CARI’s housing, senior staff are constrained to share an apartment.
He said with the arrival of additional staff, accommodations will be extremely difficult. He appealed to the Ministry of Agriculture and the Government of Liberia to see reason to relocate the UNMIL soldiers as a means of providing housing for the additional staff that are due to arrive soon at the institute to beef up the strength and production of the institute.