In a bid to enhance rice production in Liberia, the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) has begun the distribution of seed rice to local farmers in the country with support from the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP-Liberia).
The first batch of seed rice— containing 50 metric tons— was lifted on last Thursday from the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) in Suakoko, Bong County for farmers in the South-east.
The move is part of efforts carrying out the implementation of the WAAPP-Liberia program in the country.
WAAPP-Liberia is a ten year agricultural program aimed at increasing rice and cassava production funded by the World Bank and the government of Japan.
It is regional agricultural project carried out in 13 West African countries.
In Liberia, the project is being implemented in 8 of the fifteen counties, including Bong, Mar-Gibi, Grand Gedeh, Bomi, Sinoe, Maryland, Gbarpolu, and River-Gee.
Speaking earlier, the County Agriculture Coordinator (CAC) of Bong County, Monica Honore, mentioned that Liberian farmers stand ready to grow more food for the country.
“Our farmers across the country are honored with the level of support coming into Liberia for agriculture. We can assure you that as extension workers we are sure of the cooperation of farmers in working harder to make the country food secure within the next few years,” she told officials of the MoA and partners at the ceremony.
Representing Liberia’s Agriculture Minister, Dr. Florence Chenoweth, was the Assistant Minister for Planning and Development at the MoA, Ousman Tall, who stated the goal of the WAAPP program in Liberia is intended to modernize agriculture for growth in the sector.
“This is the first time since the end of the civil conflict to reach local farmers with seeds in such manner. It is meant to ensure that farmers’ capacities are well built to enable them to produce more food,” he stated.
He stressed that there was a need to empower farmers in order to improve productivity.
According to him, over the years the country was lacking seed rice to distribute to farmers.
“At the end of the Liberian war, seed rice was imported from neighboring countries to reach our farmers. But today we are revamping the sector with the accessibility of seed rice,” he disclosed.
Also speaking was the manager of CARI, Aaron Marshall, who disclosed that presently CARI has secured a great amount of seed rice at her warehouse in Suakoko, Bong County.
“Nearly 170 metric tons of seed rice is currently being stored in the warehouse. It is the first consignment of seed rice to be distributed to local farmers. We have 2,000 bags for upland and lowland rice.
He stated the different varieties of seed rice being stored as: Swakoko 8, NERICA 19, LAC 23 and NERICA 14.
He said these varieties of seeds were multiplied last year with support from the WAAPP-Liberia project.
“These are quality seeds that have been produced through a grant awarded to CARI,” he stated.
The CARI manager further revealed that around 500 metric tons of seed rice is expected to be produced by his institution in the next few years.
For his part, the country representative of Africa Rice, Dr. Akintayo Inussa, said his institution was collaborating with CARI to ensure the objectives (seed rice provision) of the WAAPP program are achieved in the country.
“We brought 50 tons of seed rice from Ivory Coast to be multiplied initially at CARI. All these efforts were meant contribute to the level of improved seeds for the country. This is just the beginning of what we intend to do in the next few months,” he said.
Mr. Cyrus Saygbe is the national project coordinator of WAAPP-Liberia who stated that the distribution of seed rice to local farmers was a “dream come true.”
“WAAPP’s goal is to ensure that local farmers are empowered to grow more food. About 10,000 metric tons of seed rice is expected to be produced before the end of the program,” he said.
Saygbe further mentioned that close to 48 hectares of land has been developed with improved cassava cuttings to be distributed to farmers.
“Within the next few years there will be enough planting materials for our local farmers,” he said.
Meanwhile, a local farmer in Mar-Gibi County, Esther Clarke, who spoke on behalf of Liberian farmers at CARI, said that the effort by the MoA was commendable.
“We are very pleased that the agriculture ministry, through WAAPP-Liberia, can provide seed rice for us. We will make sure to make use of the opportunity provided for us to improve in farming,” she said.