The Center for Women Agriculture Program (CWAP) has brought into Liberia a new variety of cocoa, called the “PA15”, to help improve production of the tree-crop.
According to CWAP’s project manager, Edward Kalayi, the new variety of cocoa was taken from Ghana, following research that was cond ucted. He said it is intended to intensify cocoa production in Liberia.
He said the cocoa is highly disease-resistant and high-yielding. Mr. Kalayi also said that this variety, which is very adaptable to weather conditions, is good for Liberians that are in the production of cocoa.
The “PA15″ is about 189gm. Mr. Kalayi said it’s high yield is good for Liberia and will help farmers to produce more cocoa within 2 to 3 years, enabling them to earn better income.
The new cocoa variety has a maturity duration of about two years. It will help local farmers who do not have the means to produce more cocoa and who use old varieties in production. Mr. Kalayi further clarified that the cocoa seeds are available and affordable for farmers.
“I am carrying it to Saclepea, Nimba County, where we are based, to multiply for distribution to interested farmers. This improved variety that we are using is meant to raise enough income. We cannot continue to depend on other countries once such improved cocoa variety is available in the country,” he said.
The project manager also noted that the cocoa is worth about seven thousand United States dollars ($7,000). He said farmers who plant this variety of cocoa will not only see a big improvement in production but will also experience greater income.
He however encouraged farmers to not go and buy just any variety of cocoa. He said they should ensure that they use improved planting materials, which have high yields in terms of manufacturing and are resistant to disease.
Meanwhile, CWP’s Executive Director, Rebecca S. Kalayi, recalled that years back in Liberia the variety of cocoa could reach maturity in five years after planting. She said the new variety being brought by her organization is to ensure that at least within two years farmers can have something to show to their communities and Liberia at large.
She re-emphasized that looking at Liberia, following a 14-year civil conflict, Liberians continue to depend on government and think it must do everything. She said citizens’ involvement in agriculture will help to avoid this way of thinking.
“There were many challenges along the way, at the onset of this initiative, but by God’s grace we are now bringing a new variety of cocoa in the country,” she said.
According to Director Kalayi, the organization has about forty thousand acres of farmland in Nimba county. She said the CWAP also has an agro-shop and a private seed garden, which are being supervised by the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI).
Director Kalayi said they have farmers, mostly young people out of high school, that are trained in the production of cocoa.
“Farming is about us, let us get involved. We give basic agriculture training, specifically in cocoa production; we also give our farmers general training,” she said.
Encouraging Liberians to continue to work hard to move the country forward, she said they should not expect much from government but should engage into agriculture, which is the best way to eradicate hunger. Agriculture yields a fruitful result at the end of the day, she added.
Director Kalayi reminded the Liberian government that when it comes to the transformation process of the country, hardworking Liberians, especially those in the agriculture sector, should be recognized and be given the opportunity to excel.
The Tree Crop Officer at CARI, Charles King, said that the research institute has the new cocoa variety but in a limited amount.
“We do have the new cocoa variety at the research institute but in a limited amount. We are thinking on establishing a seed garden where we can multiply such variety for distribution to smallholder farmers. This new cocoa variety is adaptable to our soil condition, so we laud CWAP for importing the variety to assist farmers,” Mr. King said.
He said the 14-year civil crisis completely destroyed the agricultural sector and CARI is working harder to revamp the cocoa region by introducing different cocoa varieties to stop seed importation.
In a related development, the field quarantine officer from the Ministry of Agriculture assigned at the Roberts International Airport, James Karto, has confirmed that following the team’s inspection of CWAP, the Ministry has certified the organization to import the new cocoa seed variety.
“The Ministry has over the past times observed that CWAP has been bringing in good planting materials from neighboring countries to Liberia,” Mr. Karto said.