Many still wonder why Liberia is yet to feed itself as the country continues to import rice annually, though it has 4.6 million hectares of arable land that covers over 40 percent of the rain forest in the Sub-region.
With this mass land size and other favorable conditions for agriculture activities, it is also unfortunate that the country is the 8th hunger-stricken country in the world, while food insecurity also affects 650,000 Liberians, according to both Concern International and the World Food Program (WFP).
With this trend, the Smallholders Agriculture Productivity Enhancement and Commercialization (SAPEC), an international agro player in both crop protection and nutrition markets with focus on sustainable agriculture production and AfricaRice, a leading pan-African rice research organization committed to improving livelihoods in Africa through strong science and effective partnerships, have made strides to improve the sector.
Through a project founded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the two are making head ways in rice production in several counties, especially in the Southeast.
AfricaRice Country Director, Dr. Innoussa Akintayo, recently highlighted the achievements of the project so far at the celebration of this year’s World Food Day (WFD) program in Buchanan, Grand Bassa.
The program was held under the theme, “A Zero Hunger World by 2030, Is It Possible?” and organized by authorities of the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
AfricaRice’s interventions in improving rice production in the country, Akintayo said, are centered on productivity and production enhancement, infrastructure improvement, organization and capacity development of stakeholders, and market and value addition.
Dr. Akintayo told the Daily Observer that Liberia has access to almost everything it takes — not just to make the country food secure — but with requisite investment from government and partners and the necessary political will to enable the production in commercial quantity for export to neighboring countries and beyond.
“External distribution will not only enhance or improve revenue generation for farmers, but also improve the country’s balance of payments or trade and concomitantly increase its gross domestic product (GDP) significantly,” he said.
Akintayo added that the needed technologies that will ensure mechanized farming are already in the country to help spur agriculture productivity, adding that, “with the requisite support, Liberia can finally become an agriculture hub in the sub-region.”
If Liberia is to realize its dream of diversifying its economy, Akintayo said there is a necessity for huge investment in the requisite high performing modern technologies.
“It is unfortunate that rice is the country’s staple food and, despite favorable conditions for its production in large quantity, the country continues to spend over US$200 million every year to import the commodity to feed the nation. Therefore we at SAPEC and AfricaRice are working together to curb this situation,” Dr. Akintayo said.
SAPEC and AfricaRice have made some achievements under each of the pillars, which the CEO said “introduction of improved rice varieties—14 improved climate change resilient rice varieties, both in upland and lowland, have been introduced and tested under the SAPEC Project.”
“This new technology allows the extension of cultivated land; improves timeliness of farm’s operations; enables easy accomplishment of tasks that are difficult to perform and improves quality of works and products, among others,” he said.
A total of 15 of these locally fabricated rice mills are currently in the process of installation in the project counties.
According to Dr. Akintayo, four high capacity imported industrial rice mills have been brought in country. Three of these high performing mills have been installed in three of the project counties (Grand Gedeh, Maryland and River Gee.) The fourth is at the verge of being installed.
Agriculture Minister Dr. Mogana S. Flomo, Jr., has meanwhile called on Liberians and international partners to work together, to ensure that everyone gets involved in agriculture, if Liberia and the world will attain zero hunger by 2030.
“We know hunger and when you are hungry you can’t be strong to learn even if the best teacher is teaching you,” he said, adding, “this can stop if everyone sees agriculture as the only way to end hunger in Liberia,” Minister Flomo said.