In a sunny afternoon in Panta District, Bong County, a group of sixty-five (65) farmers under the name “Kwapaigei Farmers Development Cooperative Society (KFDCS),” harvested fifteen hectares of improved NERICA L-19. This agricultural initiative was made possible by the Japanese Government.
NERICA L-19 is a short-duration, lowland rice variety that is grown in Liberia.
Under the initiative, “Integrated Sustainable Rice System Development in Liberia”, the Government of Japan provided a total of US$500,000 to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to support the Government of Liberia’s efforts in enhancing the production capacity of smallholder farmers to increase sustainably productivity and incomes.
Targeting 1,500 beneficiaries, the project is strengthening the rice value chain in the two breadbasket counties; Bong and Lofa. In addition to strengthening the production capacity of smallholder producers, the project will construct two post-harvest facilities; one in each county, that will include technologies (rice mills, De-stoner, threshers, storage and drying slides) to aid the farmers add value to their produce.
At the launch of the event, Francis Paliwoe, head of KFDCS, lauded efforts by the FAO to provide the needed support to the farmers. “I am extremely honored to be a beneficiary of support provided by FAO,” said Paliwoe.
Mr. Paliwoe, who also benefited from an FAO sponsored farmer exchange visit to Ghana, said it was a great experience to be part of a delegation of farmers to adopt the improved farming practices by the Ghanaian farmers. “As you can see, all the technical and financial support provided by FAO is what the farmers have shown through their first harvest,” he noted.
Madam Torhn N. Konisear, Commissioner, Panta District, called on the farmers to take advantage of the investment. “You need to take ownership of what FAO is providing for you. In the case where FAO will not be around, you need to transfer to other farmers what you have learnt and this will help increase their production in order to support your families and other relatives.”
Commissioner Konisear joined other speakers to call on the government to rally with donor partners to reach out to the most vulnerable poor farmers who do not have the technical capacity to continue with their farm activities. “I will like to call on the government to closely work with her partners to solicit more funding for those vulnerable poor farmers,” Commissioner Konisear pleaded.
Ayoubah L. Fofana, Assistant Minister for Coordination and Communal Farming at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, commended the farmers for exhibiting team spirit. “You have shown your ability and willingness to make Liberia self-sufficient in food production. I will encourage you to make relevant use of all the support provided by FAO,” said Fofana.
Minister Fofana requested FAO for additional support to expand the training to reach out to others.
He added that the farmers have shown high level of resilience and team spirit to work in order to stand on their own and support their families.
Sergio Conterjic, FAO International Consultant and Agribusiness and a Value Chain Expert, joined the harvest and called on the farmers to extend the knowledge and best practices to other farmers.
“I want to encourage you to make perfect use of the opportunity in order to produce more food in making Liberia self-sufficient in food production.”
FAO is working with the Ministries of Agriculture and Internal Affairs to ensure that the most urgent and needed support is provided to farmers in Bong and Lofa counties. During the next quarter, beneficiaries will carry out replanting of the farm with seed rice using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). At the same time, FAO and partners will be facilitating the installation of agro-machinery and construction of post-harvest technology centers. Thereafter, capacities of farmers and other community members – especially youth – will be built on the use of agro-machines and management of the centers.