Liberia’s agriculture stakeholders validated the 10-year strategy plan of the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI).
The plan is aimed at making the Institute more “commercially-oriented” focused on “technology transfer and innovation to improve the country’s food security.
Stakeholders, including the Ministry of Agriculture, USAID Food and Enterprise Development (FED) Program, the World Food Program, the Farmers Union Network (FUN), the Cooperative Development Agency, International FUND for Agricultural Development (IFAD), CARI, met in Monrovia earlier this week to review CARI’S strategic plan.
The strategic plan is expected to transform CARI into an efficient and effective national agriculture research center to improve agricultural production in Liberia. It focuses on improving extension services to meet the research needs of the many smallholder farmers across the country as well as the establishment of market linkages.
The increased focus on agriculture research is also part of the Government of Liberia’s Agriculture Sector Investment Program and Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (LASIP/CAADP).
Speaking earlier at the ceremony, Liberia’s Agriculture Ministers, Dr. Florence Chenoweth, said that there is need to build the capacity of CARI as one of those research institutes that will compete with other countries.
“We know that we a need a strong research institute to drive the process toward improving agricultural activities,” she said.
The Minister further explained that though there are efforts being made to restore CARI to its prewar status, the process of transformation was still needed.
She used the occasion to thank the World Bank, USAID and government of Liberia for the contributions made in revamping the country’s only agricultural research center after having been devastated by the 14-year civil unrest.
History shows that agriculture in Liberia was far ahead of many West African countries before the war. But today, CARI lacks a well structured research management to make its works reach the local farmers.
Professor Martin N. Shem, a consultant on the draft strategic plan, who made a presentation at the meeting, said it is important that the new mission for CARI seeks for more information that will transform the lives of local farmers.
He said that the key challenge for African agriculture is to transform the subsistence farmers in to commercial farmers. According to him, this can be achieved if only more attention is placed on agricultural research.
“You cannot achieve the goals of improving the lives of subsistence small holder farmers without having a good research center,” he said.
For her part, Montserrado County representative and chairman of the Houses’ Committee on Agriculture at the National Legislature, Josephine Francis, said that CARI will need more funding to enable it to become a vibrant research institution.
“African countries like Tanzania have become renowned for their research because their governments included money every year in their national budget to make it more functional,” she disclosed.
Madam Francis, who is also the president of the FUN, calls for inclusion of research activities at CARI with the private sector.
She noted that there are private investors in the tree crops sector, mainly oil palm and rubber, that are research targets as well.