In an effort to address challenges faced in the agricultural sector of Liberia, 75 stakeholders in the sector are currently participating in a 3 day workshop on integrated agricultural research development in Kakata, Mar-Gibi County.
The participants comprised of stakeholders from non-governmental organizations in the agriculture sector, civil society farmer’s organizations, extension workers, and local farmers.
The workshop is being organized by the West African Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP-Liberia), with support from the World Bank and the government of Japan.
It is intended to strengthen the capacity of WAAPP’s stakeholders in understanding the process and skills for the application of Integrated Agricultural Research for development to impact agriculture in the country.
Two university professors from Ghana and Nigeria, Dr. Fatunbi A. Oluwole and Dr. Adeolu Babatunde Ayanwale are facilitating the workshop.
WAAPP-Liberia is a ten year project of the Ministry of Agriculture meant to increase the production of rice and cassava in the country.
Speaking during the opening section of the workshop on Wednesday on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Florence Chenoweth, the Assistant Minister for planning and development at the MoA, Ousman Tall, said the workshop was key to agricultural development in the country.
“The issue of integrated research for development for agriculture is important and needs to be taken seriously,” he noted.
He said that producing rice and other crops in an integrated manner was important for enhancing food security and would require extensive research by stakeholders in the agriculture sector.
According to him the workshop would help greatly in achieving the goal of his ministry to increase food production.
He asked the participants to take the training seriously in order to stimulate the production of local crops.
Addressing concerns from the Workshop participants, Minister Tall said that though Liberia’s has competing demand for its reconstruction drive, the government still prioritizes agriculture.
“Investment in the agriculture sector is being improved over the years with seven percent funding according to studies from the World Bank,” he disclosed.
However, minister Tall’s disclosure clearly shows that most of the funding to support agriculture in the country comes from external sources.
The allotment for agriculture in the national budget stands at 2.4 percent; far below the Maputo declaration on food security which mandates African leaders to allot ten percent in their national budgets for agriculture.
The minister clarified that ten percent allotment in the national budget for agriculture is a burden for the country considering government’s numerous obligations at the moment
He said what is critical, however, “is to ensure that funding meant for the sector reaches poor farmers to eradicate poverty from their lives.”
Speaking earlier, the national coordinator of WAAPP-Liberia, Cyrus Segbeh said that the WAAPP Project in Liberia is being implemented by eight NGOs in eight of the 15 counties of Liberia.
He said that the program is a regional one carried out in 13 West African countries.
Mr. Segbeh stated that the participants of the workshop are expected to develop an innovative platform for research that would promote WAAPP’s activities in the country.
Meanwhile, in his presentation, the workshop facilitator, Dr. Fatunbi A. Oluwale stated that there are many challenges facing Africa’s agriculture sector that require research for improvement.
He named limited marketing, mechanization, environmental degradation and other factors that needed to be addressed to experience growth in the sector.
“We need to embark on thorough research to find a solution to Africa’s food security,” he noted.
Dr. Fatunbi, who is the program officer for the Sub Saharan Africa Challenge Program, said that the development of agriculture in Africa does not depend on Policy makers as perceived by some.
He said agricultural stakeholders must recognize the problems confronting agriculture in Africa or not enough would be done.
“Africans themselves must grow what they eat and stop poverty through depending on countries in Europe and Asia for food. We are here to find a way forward for agricultural research and put a stop to food insecurity. This also requires putting in place the proper frame work on how to utilize agricultural funding necessary to support the sector,” he concluded.