Over the week end three schools in Grand Bassa County completed a nine-month gardening program aimed at training students with basic agricultural knowledge to make them productive citizens.
The schools include, Liberian Christian High School, Little Bassa Public School and Gorbleh Public School.
The program is being carried out by the Community Youth Network Program (CYNP) with support from the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and its partners.
The ceremony for the winners of the gardening competition was held in Buchanan City, attended by staff of the MoA, the Food and Enterprise Development Program (FED), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the USAID Advancing Youths Project along with local authorities of the county.
Giving an overview of the program on Saturday, the Executive Director of CYNP, Junior Toe disclosed that twenty schools in the county participated in the program.
He said it had succeeded in training nearly 2,500 young farmers in methods of cassava planting, and vegetable production from the various institutions.
He pointed out that students acquired skills in improved agriculture methods including: nursery management, garden bed construction, and pest control among others.
Toe explained that the garden program could not have been successful without the support of the MoA and its partners.
“We are grateful to the MoA and partners for providing all the necessary support; including technical services to implement the program,” he praised.
He named seeds, tools, fertilizers and other farming implements that they received to extend to the various schools as some of the donations from the MoA.
According to him the program is helping to promote a higher level of food security in the county.
“Today many of the students learning agriculture are demonstrating knowledge they acquired in their various communities. It is helping them increase the production of food and serving as income generation,” he told the audience at the program.
In his keynote address, the Assistant Minister for Technical and Vocational Training at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, M. Boakai Jeleiba, stressed the need for the country to prioritize vocational training for its youths.
“Young people must be taught to work with their hands in order to build the country. Teaching agriculture to students is the best way to move Liberia forward,” he stressed.
According to Minister Jeleiba focusing on training youths in agriculture would help solve the problem of unemployment in the country.
“The crisis in Liberia is not about unemployment, but the lack of the citizens’ capacities to take advantage of available opportunities,” he noted.
He called for a legislation that would ensure that vocational education is prioritized in the country.
For his part, the Deputy Minister for Extension Services at the MoA, Thomas Gbokie, said that his ministry has the mandate to providing training for Liberians who are interested in acquiring agricultural knowledge.
“The ministry attached seriousness to students being taught agriculture in the various institutions across the country. This is why we are inviting partners to come into our country to help,” he disclosed.
Minister Gbokie said the program is being designed to sustain the country’s food security.
He used the occasion to call on the youth to venture into the agricultural sector as a way of improving their lives.
“If you plant crops or raise animals, you would be empowering yourself with income,” he encouraged the young people.
The Chief of Party of FED, Agnes Lux, said her institution is supporting the school garden program in the country as part of efforts to improve food security.
She said that FED is supporting farmers in rice production, vegetable and livestock farming.
“Many of you young people can get empowered through our program to build the capacities of Liberian farmers. We want as many of you as possible to partake in the program in the three counties,” she explained
She named the counties as, Nimba, Bong and Montserrado.
Meanwhile, cash awards of LD$50,000.00, LD$20,000.00 and $LD10, 000.00 were presented to the 3 schools taking the first place, runner-up and third place spots. They received the cash for their successful dedication in implementing the gardening program.
The prize money was provided by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.