The agricultural sector and food system of Liberia still face numerous challenges, including limited research and extension advisory services. Those constraints pose serious problems for many smallholder farmers who lack the technology and training to increase farm productivity.
To ensure that smallholder farmers benefit through better research and extension advisory services, stakeholders from diverse backgrounds within the agricultural sector of the country recently validated reports that have to do with the comprehensive system analysis of the research and extension in Liberia, taking into consideration public and private sector involvement.
The reports which emerged from studies conducted were validated by the stakeholders in Monrovia. They aim to ensure a sustainable agricultural system. The studies were conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), under the Linking Extension and Research to Farmers for Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition project in Liberia, with support from the European Union, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI).
The objective of the project is to strengthen the research and extension systems by improving the linkage between the two systems for farmers and other actors in the agricultural innovation system.
Speaking during the opening of the validation exercise on behalf of the Country Representative of FAO, Mariatou Njie, the Deputy Country Representative of the organization, Octavius Quabo expressed the need to operationalize a sustainable extension system in the country in order to improve agricultural productivity and livelihood of farmers.
According to him, ensuring very good measures in fostering better extension services in the agricultural sector will go a long way, not only to improve the lives of farmers, but the entire agricultural value chain.
“A broad measure toward fostering extension services in the agricultural sector will enhance not only the value chain, but also significantly improve the livelihoods, food security and nutrition of the country’s farmers.
Quabo stated that the research system plays a pivotal role in promoting new technologies, and generating field data; while extension systems are necessary to link farmers to new technologies, adding that knowledge and innovations are central in enhancing agricultural production. He noted that despite the importance of research, extension and advisory services systems, the two systems still have limited linkages.
“There is also a weak and limited institutional working relationship between research and extension institutions and with different categories of value chain actors,” he added.
The FAO Deputy Representative said his institution is therefore working with the government of Liberia, through the MOA and CARI to address the gaps.
According to him, the studies on research and extension were carried out in nine of the fifteen counties of Liberia to determine the gap for necessary actions. The counties are Lofa, Nimba, Bong, Montserrado, and Grand Bassa. The rest include Gbarpolu, Maryland, Sinoe, and Grand Gedeh counties.
“The assessment, among others, seeks to assess the country’s context and its impacts on the performance of the research and extension; assess clients’ perspectives regarding those issues, among other things,” he explained.
According to him, the findings of the assessment have assisted in understanding the two systems in Liberia to derive recommendations for the improvement of the systems.
Quabo said that his institution remains particularly grateful to the European Union for providing the support. He recounted the long-standing partnership between his institution and the government of Liberia in improving the agricultural sector.
For his part, Quaqua Mulbah, Senior Research Officer for the Crop Program at CARI, told the participants that the core of the studies was to strengthen the agricultural research systems of the country for integrated development purposes.
According to him, in Liberia, agricultural research is mainly being supported by development partners.
“Specifically, we aimed to explore the current status for agricultural research for development for the improvement of the impact of the agricultural research systems. This also sought to access the current linkages between the different actors for research and extension deliveries,” he mentioned.
He said that the assessment has developed guidelines on the way agriculture and research should be done to improve the food systems.
According to him, better research and extension are going to be improved through the development of necessary principles. He said that this requires the development of knowledge products that include tools and guidelines for assessments, as well as to develop linkages among actors of agricultural research and extension.