Dr. Gaoussou TRAORE, Regional Project Coordinator of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) under the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Project (WAAPP), has commended Liberia for leading the program that is being implemented by WAAPP.
SRI is a methodology aimed at increasing the yield of rice produced in farming. It can reduce water requirements, increase land productivity, and requires less reliance on artificial fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and other agrochemicals, all while buffering against the effects of climate change and reducing greenhouse gases (GHG).
Dr. TRAORE said that since the launch of the SRI project in 2013, Liberia has been leading the way with local farmers making maximum use of the method that now increases their productivity and incomes. He said
Liberia now serves as a case to be emulated by other countries in the region.
Speaking at the opening of a three-day SRI regional conference in Monrovia, the Malian Agriculturist said Liberia is now leading the rest of the 12 members of WAAPP’s SRI in its implementation and productivity levels.
He attributed the success to the robustness and innovations of the Agriculture Ministry and the local WAAPP office as well as other partners on the ground. He said the involvement of non-state actors in the process is a milestone that other countries should look at.
The SRI conference, which ends today, brings together English speaking members of ECOWAS—Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The conference, according to organizers, is meant to capitalize on good practices from participating members, establish the SRI baseline study for each country and to harmonize and simplify data collection tools and content provided by previous regional workshops.
Three previous regional workshops on the SRI project have been held in Porto Novo (February 2014), Benin (August 2014) and in Kpalime, Togo and early this year in Abidjan.
Dr. TRAORE noted that the increased use of innovations such as improved varieties and improved crop management, combined with agriculture policy, is making a significant difference in Liberia.
The Head of Program Management Unit at the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Moses Zinnah, said the SRI program has demonstrated a number of important advantages for assisting Liberia to meet its domestic rice production and consumption gaps.
According to him, this included high increase in yields from 4 to 5 tons/ per hectare to about 8 tons per hectare, though the average yield per hectare in the traditional rice production is only about 1 to 2 tons/ha.
SRI increases revenue for Liberian farmers by about 50 percent above the traditional rice production system, he said. “It also improves soil condition by using organic matter and reducing the use of mineral fertilizers.”
“Today Liberia and other neighbors can boost of significant progress in the area with increase in yield from 2 tons to 4 tons minimum. The project is meant to introduce SRI as one of the cost-effective ways of growing rice with less seed and input,” he said
Dr. Zinnah further noted that the SRI also economizes on the use of fertilizers by 50 percent, though it is one of the most expensive inputs in producing rice in Liberia, he stated.
Meanwhile, WAAPP, funded by the World Bank (IDA) and the Japanese government, has the primary focus to increase agricultural productivity and sustainability while at the same time promoting more integration in the ECOWAS region.
WAAPP has for the past years supported agricultural technologies and practices that increase domestic production of rice at affordable cost in ECOWAS countries.
In order to significantly increase productivity, WAAPP center of national specialization on rice, SRI as an innovative practice changes the traditional way rice is produced. SRI is a method of producing more rice with less seeds, less water, and fertilizers on soils drained and enriched in organic matter.
The project, entitled: Improving and Scaling-up SRI in West Africa, was approved in 2013. It is now in its implementation phase with national field activities financed mainly by national WAAPP coordination units and relevant regional activities by the regional funds.