The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has handed over several equipment to the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) to strengthen Liberia’s agricultural sector in the areas of research and extension.
The equipment which will address the capacity needs of the MOA and the Central Agriculture Research (CARI) were procured through the European Union (EU) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) agriculture funds for the country.
Money from the EU project, which is tagged, ‘Linking Extension and Research to Farmers for Sustainable Agriculture Food Security and Nutrition,’ was used to buy equipment including Polycom cameras, monitor, TV screen, twenty-three sets of computers and eight printers with toners as well as 15 motorbikes.
Also, funds from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) project titled, “Promoting Increased Resilience and Sustainable Income Generation for Food Security and Nutrition for Rural Women,’ was used to buy several different pieces of equipment including 15 motorbikes.
The UAE funded project was attracted by President Geoge M. Weah in 2018 during a visit to the UAE. During the visit, the Liberian leader asked the UAE for support towards agriculture.
Presenting the equipment to Agriculture Minister Jeanine Milly Cooper at the MOA Project Management Unit (PMU) Compound in Gardnerville, outside Monrovia, FAO Country Director, Mariatou Njie, said that the equipment delivered will ensure research and extension works through training and capacity building, and advisory services for smallholder farmers to enhance productivity.
“FAO intends to set up video conferencing facilities for research purposes, enhance extension through training and capacity development for smallholder farmers as well as provide logistical support to facilitate agricultural extension and advisory services to the MOA and CARI,” she explained during the presentation of the equipment.
According to her, though agriculture occupies a strategic position in Liberia’s economic drive as a key contributor to food security and nutrition, the country’s agricultural sector still faces low productivity thus limiting domestic food supply.
She said as part of an effort to address food insecurity facing the country, in 2019 the EU approved a contribution of 2 million Euro project to support research and extension which is being implemented by her institution in collaboration with the MOA and CARI.
“To achieve a high level of agricultural production, Liberia must have intense research and extension systems. The research and extension infrastructures need to be strengthened and recognized to conduct more relevant and appropriate research to solve farmers’ problems and increase agricultural production and productivity, “she said.
She said that FAO and the EU support Liberia’s agriculture to address the weak linkages between research and extension.
“These two areas play a significant role in improving Liberia’s food and nutrition security by improving production and productivity. This demand-driven solution for smallholder farmers is more effective in delivering advisory services to increase their incomes and boost household food supply,” she said.
According to her, since January 2020, the EU-funded project has started its activities to access the country’s current situation of research and extension systems.
“Toward strengthening the capacities of the two lead institutions, MOA and CARI and consistent with the needs already identified, various equipment have been procured,” she mentioned.
Commenting on the UAE funded project, Madam Njie narrated that UAE signed an agreement with FAO through the Government of Liberia in September 2019 to implement the project which according to her is being carried out in six counties including Bong, Nimba, Gbarpolu, Lofa, Bomi, and Montserrado counties to improve the incomes of mainly rural women.
According to her, the project is assisting 24 farmer groups of 2,939 beneficiaries majority of whom are women farmers in the targeted counties.
She said that the beneficiaries are being supported by agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and machinery to improve production.
Madam Njie added that the women farmers are also being trained in improved rice and vegetable production as well as poultry and fish farming to improve incomes and food security.
“The Project distributed vegetable seeds as well as compliment rice, poultry, and fish production to improve the beneficiaries’ diets,” she said.
“Today’s event we are pleased to turn over 15 motorbikes to you, Madam Minister, for your decentralized office in the targeted counties to facilitate the works of the District agricultural officers in the implementation of the project activities at farm level,” she added.
The FAO Country Director further disclosed that agro machines have been purchased for the women farmers but not yet deliver due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Global Pandemic has caused delay in the delivery of major inputs for the project. We expect to receive the agro machines in due course now since those countries have opened their borders and airspace,” she said.
Receiving the equipment, Minister Cooper thanked the European and the United Arab Emirates for supporting Liberia’s agriculture sector.
“We are thankful to our international partners for the numerous support toward smallholder farmers. We will make sure that the equipment provided will be used to improve the works at the MOA and CARI in order to move agriculture forward.
Also speaking the EU Delegation representative for Head of Section Resilience Cooperation, Ivan BORISAVLJVIC said that the EU remains committed to supporting agriculture in Liberia.
According to him, the EU supports agriculture, forestry, and fisheries in Liberia to boost the country’s economy.
“The current EU funded project is part of support to Liberia’s agriculture in improving the lives of rural citizens, especially in the areas of research and extension. This is why the types of equipment are being procured to strengthen extension delivery services. It is important that we gather all efforts to support the MOA and CARI so that they can deliver quality services to smallholder farmers,” he informed participants at the turnover ceremony.