Farmers in Liberia are expected to adopt a new way of cultivating lowland rice to obtain high yield after the completion of a 3 day training workshop in Kakata, Mar-gibi County.
The workshop started on Tuesday and will end today. It was be attended by several stakeholders in the agricultural sector of Liberia along with representatives from Mali and Sierra Leone.
Around 70 agriculture stakeholders from the 15 counties, including local farmers in rice production, are undergoing the training.
The workshop is organized by the Community of Hope Agriculture Project (CHAP) with funding from the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) through the World Bank and the Japanese government.
The participants are taught on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI).
SRI is an innovation that changes the conventional practices of rice growing by enabling the rice plants to better achieve their potential of production. In practice, it consists of producing rice with less seeds, water and fertilizers on a soil rich in organic matter and well ventilated. A French agriculture engineer discovered it in Madagascar.
This new practice of growing rice to increase yield has become a mandate in 13 West African countries to ensure that farmers use it to make the sub region self-sufficient in rice production.
West African countries prioritizing the SRI include Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Burkina-Faso among others.
Explaining the objective of the training workshop on Tuesday, the Executive Director of CHAP, Reverend Robert Bimba, stated it is meant to successfully implement the regional SRI commissioned project in Liberia for innovative practices.
He said that it requires that people be trained to ensure the practice become successful in the country to sustain rice production.
“The mandate is to prepare 70 dedicated trainers as SRI champions for scaling food security in Liberia. At the end of the training they are expected to recruit more farmers and inform them about the new practice,” he disclosed.
He said that the trainees are rice producers and other agriculture actors who are interested in the practice of the SRI.
According to Rev. Bimba, “This new practice of increasing the yield of rice in the rice field was first practiced in Liberia by members of the CHAP project in Zubah Town, Duport Road Paynesville. It came after the completion of training on the practice of the SRI in Mali a year ago which I was fortunate to be a part.”
Upon return, we demonstrated the practice in our rice field and discovered that it has great potential for our country. This is why we have deemed it necessary to join other West African countries in carrying out the same method,” he disclosed.
The CHAP executive director clarified that the role of his organization after the training is to ensure that the trainees become champions of the SRI practices in their various counties. By this he means, that the trainees must be robust in ensuring that more farmers are recruited and trained.
“They are to sign a form to demonstrate their commitment after the end of the training. We intend to support them through project proposals that would attract funding for their works,” he added.
Speaking earlier, the National Coordinator of the West Africa Agriculture Productivity Program (WAAPP-Liberia) Cyrus Saygba said that it is an historic happening for Liberia to join other West African countries in intensifying rice production in the sub region.
“Liberia is pleased to become part of an effort ensuring that food security among West African counties is improved. We therefore welcome the idea of the SRI not only to increase rice production, but also to empower many of our farmers to reduce poverty,” he stressed.
He added that embarking on such a venture would help put a stop to the huge importation of rice by government.
In his opening remarks, the Director of the Program Management Unit at the MoA, Dr. Moses Zina, called on the workshop participants to not only acquire the training but make sure that it becomes a success for Liberia.
“Workshops without action are meaningless; so I am therefore challenging all present to take the training to other farmers across the country to upgrade our food production,” he told the participants.
Dr. Zina said that the dependency on rice importation is a tragedy for the country and there is a need for something be done to address the problem.
“About 60 percent of our primary staple food is imported, a fact I find worrisome. I strongly feel that we Liberians are able to feed ourselves and the sub region,” he observed.
“If nothing is done about the high level of rice importation we will find it difficult to achieve the Agenda for Transformation,” he emphasized.
He said that there was a need for Liberia to work harder to ensure that the country becomes food secure through the practices of the SRI.
Dr. Zina furthered that the agriculture development framework of the MoA laid serious emphasis on lowland rice production to have the country self-sufficient.
According to him, “Now is the time for Liberian farmers to take advantage of the SRI to cope with the effects of climate change.”
“According to a study conducted by the UNDP, climate change is a serious threat to our development efforts in agriculture. If we don’t take serious the practice of the SRI, climate change will undermine our drive for development,” he concluded.