The World Bank Mission to Liberia has completed the assessment of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program’s (WAAPP-Liberia) first phase implementation being carried out in the country.
According to the communication specialist of WAAPP-Liberia, Elvis Sirleaf, the assessment was recently done in the project’s counties.
He said that it was intended to ascertain the level of progress already made and the challenges being faced by the project in order to make corrections and recommendations for areas that need improvement.
According to him, the team comprised of the World Bank Co Task Team Leader to Liberia, Dr. Abimbola A. Adubi; the coordinators of WAAPP Sierra Leone and Guinea, Pete Kaindahen and Dr. Boubacar Diallo; and the coordinator of the Mano River Union Japanese fund, Madam Kenyeh Laureh Barley among others.
WAAPP-Liberia is a ten year agricultural project of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) intended to increase rice and cassava production in the country. It is being funded by the World Bank and the government of Japan.
It is a regional program that is taking place in 13 West African countries.
In Liberia it is being implemented in eight of the fifteen counties, including Bong, Bomi, Mar-Gibi, Gbarpolu, Grand Gedeh, and River-Gee among others.
Dr. Adubi, who led the team in several field visits to the project counties, said that he was impressed with the level of work achieved so far.
He said that supporting the effort of local farmers to get away from traditional farming to mechanization is significant for achieving the objectives of the World Bank funded project.
“Seeing farmers at one of the out grower sites in Bomi County engage in manual labor is a clear manifestation that Liberian farmers want to farm. Helping them to achieve their desire helps to reach future food security agenda goals for Liberia,” he said to farmers in Bomi County.
He stressed the need for the engagement of farmers in farmers’ field schools where they can learn new farming methods that are being introduced under the WAAPP project.
“We are requesting that the improved planting materials that have been developed in the country be made available to farmers to enable them to meet the deadline of their planting season,” he said.
The World Bank Co-Task Team Leader praised the producers of Bomi Gari for their value added component and called on the project to draw marketing plans for the product.
He encouraged the out growers to enter in to written agreements with the original owners of the lands being used for farming in order to avoid conflict.
For his part, the Development Superintendent for Bomi County, Ernest Davies, said that the county’s authority was ready to work with development partners to ensure that lives of the people in their county are transformed.
“We have vast lands that are fertile for the growth of agriculture. Which is why I think there should be no reason Liberia cannot feed itself and its neighbors,” he told the visiting team.
He promised his county’s commitment to farming activities in the country, adding that the notion that Bomi citizens are not good at farming is untrue.
The week-long visit took the team to the Central Agricultural Research Institution (CARI) in Suakoko, Bong County, where WAAPP is presently multiplying improved rice seeds and cassava cuttings for distribution to local farmers.
CARI’s manager, Aaron Marshall, guided the tour of over 50 hectares of upland and lowland rice that have been improved at the research institute, as well as tons of seed rice that are ready for distribution.
According to Mr. Marshall, his institution is also engaged in the production of 50 hectares worth of improved cassava cuttings for the WAAPP project, some of which are ready for distribution.
“CARI is working with scientists from Africa Rice and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in breeding and multiplying improved planting materials for the project’s counties as well as mentoring young Liberian scientists who are expected to take over when the visiting scientists leave,” he disclosed.
The Coordinators of WAAPP Sierra Leone and Guinea who joined the mission to share experience from their respective countries with Liberia, said there was great potential for Liberia to develop and improve in the agro sector.
They named land, rich soil, and the enthusiasm of local farmers to work even in the absence of tools as key indicators that Liberia can do well to feed itself if farmers are given all of the necessary support needed.
The Mano River Union was represented by the coordinator of the Japanese Funds, Madam Kenyeh Barley.
She pointed out the need for active female participation in agricultural activities of Liberia.
According to her, respecting the female requirement of 40% under the regional arrangement of recruitment of women to benefit the project was important to the enhancement of WAAPP in Liberia.
WAAPP-Liberia Coordinator, J. Cyrus Saygbe, at the end of the mission thanked the participants for the lesson shared and promised to improve those areas that are marked for improvement.
He noted the need for more support in the areas of capacity building for CARI, the provision of machines, and help to improve the farming activities of farmers in the country; especially during this final half of the project’s first phase.