New journeys often begin with tentative “first steps” as evidenced by an on-going initiative of The Apostolic Pentecostal Church and Church Aid, Inc. Liberia to explore soybean as a new crop option for their smallholder farmer countrymen.
The Liberian initiative is an outgrowth of a September 2016 study tour sponsored by the Elgin, Illinois, USA based Church of the Brethren for small delegations from Nigeria and Liberia to visit SIL’s SMART FARM in Ghana.
Dr. Dennis Thompson, PI of SIL’s MRA-10 “Seed Systems,” was the project leader.
The delegation members from the two West African nations bonded while in Ghana and a unique collaboration was born.
The EYN church colleagues from Nigeria, having certain soybean experience and agronomic knowledge, offered to assist their Liberian counterparts.
The immediate challenge was to determine how best to move forward in Liberia in view of the challenge of doing so with limited technical and financial resources.
SIL’s recommendation to the collaborators was to initially establish a few soybean observation plots.
Persons to be engaged with soybean introduction in Liberia as well as smallholder farmers simply needed to see growing soybean plants and have ongoing opportunities to observe how the plants grow and develop – from planting throughout harvest.
A demonstration of this type was intended to be only a “conversation starter” with common Liberians and various organizations seeking to improve the livelihoods of Liberian farmers.
To that end, Nigerian and Liberian collaborations began and a demonstration plot was planted in the central city region of Gbatala.
In addition to the central demonstration site, “small, small experiments, just a handful of seeds in a couple of areas” were also planted according to the Bishop, Dr. Rev. Kortu K. Brown, who participated in the 2016 study tour to SIL’s SMART Farm and has collaborated with Dr. Thompson on agricultural development initiatives since 2014.
The Rev. Dr. Brown welcomes additional collaboration discussions that might allow this initial effort to be further developed with respect to exploring how soybean might become a potential cash crop for limited resource Liberian smallholder farmers.