A local non-governmental organization operating in Liberia’s agriculture sector, “Sean Devereux Incorporated,” has launched a five-hectare rice harvest in Folley Town, Bomi County.
The occasion was held over the week end attended by officials of the Ministry of agriculture (MOA), local authorities of Bomi, NGO workers and local farmers.
The agriculture project is self-initiated, aimed at empowering vulnerable women and youths to earn income for the support of their families. At least 150 persons in rural Montserrado and Dewein District, Bomi County, are currently benefiting.
It was assisted by the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE), through the World Food Program. LACE provided a short-term farm employment for youths, while Catalyst laid out the swamp in to various plots.
According to the chief executive officer of Sean Devereux, J. Amadu Sarnor, who spoke at the harvest last Thursday, rice seeds gathered from the field will be sold to the government for distribution to local farmers to grow on their farms.
There is need for the production of more improved rice seed varieties that would be distributed to farmers.
“We are harvesting today one of the improved rice seed varieties, NARICA 19, that will be given out to farmers when bought by the government. This is our way of contributing to the seed bank of our country’s agriculture sector,” he told the gathering during the harvest.
He said that project is helping to provide income for women and youths in the communities in Montserrado and Bomi.
Mr. Sarnor stressed the need for the government to provide more supports toward local farmers in order to increase food production. He named the provision of tools, fertilizers and agriculture loans as some needed incentives to boost food production.
“The government must do all it can to support farmers with all the necessary support, if we are to become food secure. Providing more support to farmers will encourage the citizens to seek for self-employment in the agricultural sector,” he noted.
Commenting on the Ebola crisis which is hindering agricultural production in Liberia, he disclosed that his organization was working to encourage farmers to use the Ebola challenges as time to work harder.
He stated that they are creating awareness on Ebola preventions among the farm beneficiaries to make them productive during the outbreak of the virus.
The Sean Devereux executive director meanwhile, used the occasion to donate some food items and household utensils for use at Ebola treatment units in Bomi.
The Assistant Minister for Research and Extension at the MOA, Paul Jallah, said that despite the Ebola situation, agriculture remains cardinal to the development of Liberia.
He said that the encouragement of the young people in Liberia to take agriculture seriously is crucial for the promoting food security.
“The participation of the youths in the agriculture sector is important for the facilitation of food security and nutrition. Our import bill for food production is getting higher in the midst of this crisis as many farmers have died as the result of the Ebola.”
“There is a need that we plan to address the challenges of the Ebola if we are going to produce more food. Farmers who are producing in the crisis are faced with frustrations, so we need to strategize ways to support our farmers to avoid extreme hunger,” he noted.
The MOA, he said, has distributed some modern farming equipment, like power tillers and tractors, in the various counties for used by farming organizations to enhance productivity.
He said that the equipment is limited, considering the urgent need for mechanization for increased production, adding that farmers’ organizations can access the services of the machines upon request to his ministry.
Julius Selee, executive director for LACE, mentioned that his institution remains committed to supporting local organizations to empower Liberians. He called on farmers to demonstrate a strong sense of commitment toward the production of food in the country.
The need for more rice seed multiplication for Liberia’s agriculture sector cannot be over emphasized as there are still many farmers across Liberia in need of seeds to grow on their farms. In 2003, the (MOA) got rice seed to local farmers by importing it from Ivory Coast. This is so because of the 14 years civil crisis that greatly destroyed the country’s agricultural sector leaving it many challenges. Though, the government of Liberia, through the MOA and the private sector are striving to restore the rice seed industry, more is still needed to be done toward rice seed multiplication, especially after the Ebola crisis. The MOA must make sure that improved varieties of seed rice are bought from local farmers. When this is done the country will soon overcome the problem of improved rice seed shortage in Liberia, driving toward food self-sufficiency.