Six thousand female farmers in rural Montserrado County have been earmarked to shortly benefit from agriculture seeds and other farming supplements from the Emma Smith Life Recovery Foundation (ESLRF). Many of those selected to benefit are young women.
This project is an initiative of the World Food Program (WFP) and the Japanese government, but is being implemented by ESLRF, whose Executive Director, Emma Smith, said the project aims to empower local farmers in the county, and subsequently across the country. The project is at the pilot stage.
Madam Smith, speaking in an interview recently at the end of a three day intensive workshop, said in order to improve the agriculture sector, the skills of agriculturists need to be sharpened and advanced as well as supported financially and materially.
The workshop was attended by ESLRF staffers and beneficiary farmers in Paynesville. She noted that agriculture is vital to the economy of any developing nation and as such needs to be prioritized by Liberians if the nation must be food-sufficient.
Farmers are expected to also benefit from consumable food after receiving the first distribution of farming items based upon approval to be part of the program.
For his part, the coordinator of the ESLRF, Albert Ansu, challenged the farmers to use the knowledge acquired as an opportunity to develop the nation through agriculture.
Mr. Ansu noted that the project, which is piloted by the World Food Program (WFP) from the Japanese grant to provide conditional food assistance to farmers, is mainly targeting rural and urban farmers in Montserrado.
He named fertilizer application, pest and disease control, harvest and post-harvest handling, work norms, food allocation and distribution among others as some of the topics covered at the three-day intensive training for farmers in order to get them prepare ahead of their activities.
Todee District Agriculture Officer (DAO) Moses S. Davies said the three-day training was timely and impactful. He noted that many farmers in the country lack technical calculation of seasonal timing for planting. This, he said, hampers the production of many crops.
The DAO, who officially represented the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), believes constant training will shift the minds of farmers to doing the right thing at the right time.
Davies commended government’s willingness to make good policies that would support farmers in the country, adding that though it is not the ministry’s role to make farms, as perceived by many Liberians, it will continuously subsidize farmers in the country whenever the resources are available.
He disclosed that government through MOA recently distributed about three hundred bags of seed rice to farmers in the country as part of government’s support to farmers in buttressing their efforts to grow more food crops.
Todee District superintendent Joseph C. Kayakpon, speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, said the training will broaden the minds of farmers technically in handling their crops and tools in order to yield expected results.
Superintendent Kayakpon highlighted the importance, usage and benefits of lowland farming as one of the components that should not be underestimated. He admonished farmers to utilize lowlands by planting different kinds of crops which he said is beneficial.
Farmers Ma-Kebbeh Moore and Jackson Tehmen, speaking on behalf of Omega Agriculture Women, a farming group, said the preservation and marketing aspects of farming have been some of the major challenges faced by farmers in the country.
The two want government and related NGOs or implementing partners to help them address these problems. When done, they will ensure efficiency and productivity, they said.
They also named the lack of farming tools, chemicals and farming gadgets among other things as some of the setbacks they are faced with. The farmers’ representatives want government through the Agriculture Ministry, NGOs and implementing partners to do away with marginalizing local farmers if Liberia must succeed in the farming business.
The workshop, which trained the ESLRF staffers on organizational behavior, resource management and organization ethics also coincided with the farmers’ training, which covered various topics, and brought together a cross section of heads of farmer groups in Montserrado.
The training sessions were also attended by representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), and WFP at the Baptist Youth Camp in Paynesville.