The Team Manager at the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) in Suakoko District, Bong County, Mr. Aaron Marshall, has disclosed his administration would continue its support of the human resources development of the institute.
In an interview with the Daily Observer over the weekend at his CARI Office, Mr. Marshall stressed that when capacity is improved, productivity would also be enhanced. This all around improvement would help smallholders to access markets in the country for the enhancement and governance of selected value chains that include rice, plantain and cassava.
The CARI Team Manager divulged that an additional six Liberian masters degree holders in specialized areas are coming to join the CARI to improve access to markets by improving productivity in a sustainable way and introducing institutional development.
Mr. Marshall informed this reporter that his administration’s primary objective at CARI is to support rehabilitation of the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.
The CARI Team Manager explained the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) would work along with the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the Government of Liberia (GOL) to restore the productive assets of farmers and farmers’ groups and build essential infrastructure to support food production, marketing and processing activities.
Mr. Marshall was swift to inform this paper that the role of the Ministry of Agriculture is to produce a level playing field through the provision of elite planting materials for farmers and farmers’ groups.
He indicated that through the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP), AfricaRice and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) CARI would provide seeds of improved varieties to poor small-scale farmers for an affordable amount.
“CARI has planted 25 hectares of improved cassava—there are 20 different varieties of cassava that can give ten times the present yield compared to the traditional cassava known as “Bassa Girl,” Mr. Marshall explained.
The CARI Team Manager specified that in 2014, around 150 metric tons of improved seeds would be available to smallholder farmers through the county agriculture coordinator, but clarified that they would not be free.
“There are many obstacles that prevent us from developing as we ought to. One of the impediments is the practice of paternalism where we give things freely to people. Here at CARI, we do not give things free to people, you have to pay something for it” Mr. Marshall noted.
Mr. Marshall further explained that CARI as agricultural institution will work with poor rural communities to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes and determine the direction of their own lives by breaking out of poverty.
“There is a high incidence of poverty in this country where the potential of agriculture is not yet realized” the CARI Team Manager declared.
Commenting on achievements over the past two years, Mr. Marshall said the institution has renovated three fish ponds for the maintenance of fingerlings that will be sold to farmers for reasonable price, the regular supply of electricity through the provision of government subsidy, the trainings of farmers and extension workers on a regular basis, the procurement of new tractors and the recruitment of five PhD holders from IITA and AfricaRice to help monitor the younger scientists by showing research mentality, research design and approaches.
On the question of challenges, Mr. Marshall informed this paper that due to limited housing facility as the result of the UNMIL Bangladeshi soldiers using the housing facilities, senior staff are constrained to share an apartment.
He said with the arrival of additional staff, it will be extremely difficult to accommodate the staff and then used the occasion to appeal to the Ministry of Agriculture and the Government of Liberia to see reason to relocate the UNMIL soldiers as a means of providing housing facility for the additional staff that are to arrive soon at the institute to beef up the strength and production of the institute.