The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) through one of its food crop projects “the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP-Liberia),” has completed engaging local farmers from eight counties on increasing the production of rice and cassava in Liberia.
The sensitization exercise started in Gbarnga, Bong County Monday, February 24, and concluded Thursday, March 20, 2014, in Pleebo, Maryland County.
It was attended by policy makers in the agricultural sector and other stakeholders.
WAAPP-Liberia is a ten year agriculture project aimed at increasing rice and cassava production with funding from the World Bank and the government of Japan.
It is a regional agricultural program carried out in 13 West African countries.
In Liberia, it is being implemented in Gbarpolu, Mar-Gibi, Bomi, Bong, Sinoe, River-Gee, Grand Gedeh and Maryland counties.
During the engagement exercise, farmers from the eight participating counties expressed great enthusiasm for the introduction of WAAPP-Liberia in their various counties.
They said it was a welcome gesture that could help create opportunities for them to improve their lives and make their various counties food secured.
However, the farmers did not fail to mention the major constraints that confront them in their agricultural ventures.
They disclosed inadequate support received in terms of the provision of tools, the lack of a market, and other factors which they said have hindered them over the years in producing more food.
Ellen Jah, a farmer in Grand Gedeh County, told the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview that they were delighted about the program in their county.
“I am very happy with the arrival of the agriculture project in our county,” she said.
She said that farming was a difficult task for females in Grand Gedeh County.
“The women of this county find it very hard growing food to make money for the support of our families. We are lacking basic farming tools such as cutlasses, hoes and other instruments. The supports received from the past years were not enough to have built our capacities,” she narrated.
For his part, Steven Bono, another farmer, said there is enough fertile land for agriculture in his county.
“We are going to work harder to disprove the notion that we Grand Gedeans are lazy,” he declared.
Speaking at the close of the engagement exercise this past Thursday, March 20, in Pleebo, Maryland County, the communication specialist for WAAPP-Liberia, Elvis Sirleaf explained that the project was designed to address challenges in the agricultural sector.
“This program aims to improve the lives of farmers and to make the country food secure. Farmers will be provided with seed rice, cassava cutting, and other agro-equipment to improve their productivity,” he said.
He informed the south-eastern farmers that 50 metric tons of seed rice has already been transported to the South-east for distribution.
Mr. Sirleaf said that WAAPP is involved in strengthening institutional and human resource capacities to improve the sector.
“37 students are currently on foreign scholarships in the area of agriculture and other disciplines at various African universities. They are expected to return in the next few years to work for the country,” he told the farmers and policy makers at the program.
The County Agriculture Coordinator (CAC) of Maryland County, Beatrice Bowman, last Thursday in Pleebo urged farmers in Maryland County to take the program seriously to make the county self-sufficient.
“This time, I do not want you to become reluctant about this project. You need to rise up and work harder to remove poverty from your lives,” Madam Bowman said.
She told the farmers that her office would do all it can to purchase the seed rice stored in the farmers’ warehouses.
Speaking on Wednesday, March 19, in Fish Town, River-Gee County, the Superintendent of Tienpo Statutory district, David Broh, thanked the government of Liberia for the program.
He encouraged the farmers in the South-east to make use of the opportunity to grow more food in their various counties.