More than 100 traditional cocoa growers from several communities in Porkpa District, Grand Cape Mount County have completed ten months intensive training in improved cocoa production.
The training, which was implemented by by an agribusiness consultant firm, Vainga Agriculture Development and Management Consultancy (VADEMCO), was meant to build the skills of cocoa farmers in the County to increase production for better incomes.
The cocoa farmers were trained in basic modern cocoa production, pest management and control, as well as cocoa intensification methods, among others.
The training was a joint effort by VADEMCO and Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL), with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change Project.
The two organizations are aiming to empower farmers in forest-edge communities, mainly along the Gola Forest National Park (GFNP), in Grand Cape Mount County, to revamp their existing cocoa farms while at same time providing them with special varieties of cocoa seedlings.
Speaking at the program for the certification of the graduating cocoa Farmers, VADEMCO Chief Executive officer, Suliman Kamara, noted that cocoa production and export remain low in Liberia and emphasized the need for government to invest more in the sector.
“Investing more in the cocoa sector will enable Liberia compete with other countries in the sub region,” he said.
“It is sad that we have many natural resources in this country but still suffer for food. Our government needs to do more because cocoa is so viable in the world”, he added.
He disclosed that currently, Liberia only has 20 cocoa exporters, compared to other countries in the sub region, noting that this number can only increase if government invests in the sector and develops an empowerment scheme for smallholder cocoa farmers.
“The VADEMCO CEO encourages the farmers to put into practice the skills they have acquired for the benefit of their communities and the country,” he said.
In remarks, Mark Dahn, Communication officer for the Society for Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL), lauded the farmers for the skills acquired, and urged them to remain focus to increase their production.
He said SCNL will continue to work alongside with cocoa farmers by building their capacity to increase production through the rainforest friendly cocoa planting technique which is widely practiced across West Africa.
For his part, the head of the cocoa farmer field school graduating class, Jerry Kerkulah, thanked VADEMCO and SCNL for the opportunity given them to acquire such unique knowledge.
“We are in high spirits to work harder to expand our farm sizes but would like to appeal for more support from the government and other donors for support,” Kerkulah said. “We have organized ourselves into a corporative called ‘Kwa Peta’. People are buying shares in this corporative. We have over 150 registered members with 64 shareholders, our leadership structures is already in place.”
About 82 men and 23 women were certificated after successfully completing the 10 month cocoa training from May 3, 2019 to January 2020. The graduation ceremonies took place on February 6-7, 2020 in Fula Camp and Camp Israel, respectively, next to the Gola Forest National Park, in upper Sokpo Clan, Porkpa District Grand Cape Mount County.