Following the adoption of a new method for rice production by Liberian farmers known as the “System of Rice Intensification (SRI), the Community of Hope Agriculture Project (CHAP), based in Paynesville, outside Monrovia has received support from the government of Liberia and partners to carry out the implementation of the program.
The support is meant to ensure that local farmers engaged in rice production commit themselves to the practice of the SRI to increase the yield of rice in Liberia.
Liberian farmers adopted the SRI to grow rice in December last year at a workshop held in Kakata, Mar-Gibi County.
The SRI is the practice of rice production where less rice seeds are used with less fertilization to increase rice yield. This method is far different from the conventional method for growing rice. It is a regional agriculture practice now carried out 13 West African Countries.
Reverend Robert Bimba, executive director of CHAP, made the disclosure to the Daily Observer newspaper in an exclusive interview on Saturday, March 1 at the project’s site in Zubah Town, Du-port Road.
According to Rev. Bimba, the government of Liberia, through one of the projects of the ministry of agriculture, “the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program” (WAAPP-Liberia) is providing support in terms of the training of local farmers in SRI practice.
“WAAPP-Liberia is expected to fund the program for 3-years to ensure local farmers’ capacities are built to commit themselves to the practice of the SRI to increase rice production,” he disclosed.
He said the program is currently piloting in six districts of Grand Gedeh and River-Gee Counties with the involvement of over 180 farmers.
Rev. Bimba explained “The SRI practice will help enhance the production of rice in the country. This is why we are encouraging farmers to prioritize it in their counties.”
The CHAP executive director revealed that Cornell University in the United States of America is also providing support along with other partners.
He said that some farmers have begun cutting their fields with the new practice (SRI method). “Farmers in Zubah Town have developed over 25 plots with young rice seedling and are expected to get great yield for their harvest.
Dr. Erika Styger is the director of program for the SRI International Network and Resource Center at Cornell University in the U.S.A. She confirmed her institution is one of the primary supporters of CHAP.
She told journalists last Saturday at the Zubah town rice field, that she was visiting Liberia to follow up on activities of the SRI’s practice.
According to Dr. Styger, Cornell University was providing regional support for the SRI’s practice in 13 West African countries, including Liberia.
She disclosed that the program is from WAAPP and funded by the World Bank.
“This program mandates that farmers in the 13 West African countries engaged in rice production grow rice according to the SRI to increase rice yield in the sub region,” she explained.
She mentioned that her institution was providing knowledge based support to Liberian farmers.
Dr. Styger noted that Liberia has a great potential for the practice of the SRI.
“Though I have not traveled to all parts of Liberia, I believe the yield of rice is very low. Farmers will need to change their approach to growing rice; especially considering that the country has sufficient water and fertile soil for the practice of the SRI,” she mentioned.
Also speaking to this paper was the chief of party of the USAID Food and Enterprise Development Program (FED), Agnes Lux.
Ms. Lux said her institution is considering trying the practice of the SRI with farmers under their lowland rice project.
“We are here to see this new method of rice planting in order to increase yield so our farmers may adopt the same practice,” she mentioned to journalists in an interview last Saturday at the CHAP’s rice field in Zubah Town.
She disclosed the FED is piloting the improvement of water control management on 50 hectares of rice field, adding that the SRI practice would enhance their effort.
According to her, prioritizing lowland rice production in the country would make local rice production compete with imported rice.
“Our institute is involved in supporting local farmers in the rice value chain to ensure rice production in the country is increased. We are currently working with other private partners on the issue of rice processing to create a market for Liberian farmers,” she stated.