The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has opened a capacity building exercise for smallholder vegetable and poultry farmers to enhance social cohesion and improve the productivity of valuable vegetables.
The capacity building exercise started since February 20 and is expected to conclude on March 3.
Approximately forty farmers mostly women and youth from two counties, Montserrado and Margibi, are obtaining knowledge and skills in Farmer Field School (FFS) methodology, concept, and principles. When this knowledge is acquired it will enable them to regularly meet, discuss common problems and conduct practical experiments to mitigate and enhance productivity.
FFS, a community-driven approach to agricultural training and education, is an interactive and participatory learning by doing approach. Farmers enhance their understanding of agro-ecosystems, which leads to production systems that are more resilient in local conditions and optimize the use of valuable resources for sustainability.
Speaking recently during the opening of the training in Kakata, Margibi County, FAO Program Support Officer, Mr. Jesse Yuan urged the participants to take ownership of the project, that will ensure access and availability of local chicken, fresh eggs, and vegetables in the counties and surroundings.
He said that FAO through the MoA designed the initiative to empower vulnerable women and youth farmers in vegetable and poultry production along the value chains.
Explaining the sustainability of the project after the donor and partners’ departure, Mr. Yuan said the limited access of farmers to quality extension services are among several challenges the farmers have encountered over the years which have led to the failure of many interventions to impact the direct and indirect beneficiaries.
To mitigate some of the challenges especially that of the extension services, FAO through its technical cooperation support is currently engaged with the MoA for the formulation of a project aimed at strengthening the capacity of the extension services.
Mr. Yuan said the experiences farmers gain through FFS allow them to increase yields and income through sustainable ways. “This process also helps farmers to improve their analytical, decision-making and communication skills,” he said.
He mentioned that the FFS is characterized by regular observation of the current crop, animal, fishery or forestry throughout a cropping or reproductive cycle; evaluation and introduction of more sustainable production practices (including pre and post-harvest and storage operation) building on local knowledge as well as testing and adopting new practices to the local context.
It may be recalled that in 2016, FAO provided over US$400,000 to support the MOA for the project “Support to sustainable production and marketing of vegetable and poultry for Urban/Peri-urban women.” The intervention sought to provide valuable vegetables and address the issues of storage and simple irrigation that impeded maximum profit making for vegetable growers during the dry season in Liberia.