Experts have hailed the Gbartala Production of the Japanese-funded Smart Valleys Project (SVP) as one of the outstanding low lands rice production fields not just in Liberia, but in all the West African Countries where the project is being implemented.
According to AfricaRice Country Representative, Dr. Innousa Akintayo, the field, which is being farmed by the Gbartala Development Association, a farming group, has recorded one of the highest outputs — yield per hectare — making Gbartala the silver lining of the project.
“This is the most productive field I have seen so far,” he said at the first harvest of the rice field recently.
Though farmers in Benin and Togo, who have adopted the Smart Valleys approach, have seen rice yields under rain fed conditions increased from 1.5-2 tons per hectare to 3.5-4.5 tons per hectare, the Gbartala production field, Dr. Akintayo noted, will produce a mammoth 7.5-8 tons per hectare.
He has gone to form part of the first harvest of the field. The occasion was also graced by other stakeholders, including district leadership and farmers. Gbartala is one of the 12 benefiting communities of the SVP.
The SVP is a participatory, sustainable and low-cost approach to develop inland valleys for rice-based production systems in sub-Saharan Africa. It was developed by AfricaRice in collaboration with the Lowlands Division of Benin Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, and the Togolese Institute for Agricultural Research with support from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Dr. Akintayo, a veteran Agronomist, who is also a Soil Scientist, expressed gratitude for the level of works that the farmers did on the site.
“I am impressed with what I am seeing here, because this is a very great job, and I’m proud of the work this team is doing here,” he said.
The rice varieties that are being used include Nerica L-19 and IR-841. AfricaRice also has an upland rice field in Suacoco, where Nerica L-4 is reaching maturity.
In addition to increased rice yields, Dr. Akintayo said major advantages mentioned by farmers, are lower vulnerability to drought risks due to increased water retention in their fields and less risk of fertilizer losses due to flooding.
“We want to see how we can replicate this project in other areas, because it could be a training center where others can come to learn,” he said.
Dr. Akintayo, who also worked with the West African Rice Development Association (WARDA) since the 1980s, said that the Liberia field can now be used as a demonstration site for the production of seed rice for distribution.
With this new development, Liberia has again proven to be one of the most ideal places for rice farming, especially in the low land areas.
After its success in Benin and Togo, Smart-valleys is being rolled out in Burkina Faso, Liberia and Sierra Leone—countries, which according to the Coordinator, Dr. Roland Nuhu Issaka have a high potential for development of rice-based systems in the inland valleys.
The SVP, Dr. Issaka noted, is to improve the livelihood and food security of rice producers by augmenting and securing rice production in inland valleys through improved land and water management, and improved agronomic practices and mechanization.
Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) chairman, Augustine Flomo lauded AfricaRice and the Japanese Government for the support, but stressed the need for implements to help the farmers increase output.
“We need more farming machines to enhance our work since the farmers are working hard, but we need more help,” Flomo said.
The project is being funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Japanese Government. It is being implemented in 12 communities in Bong, Nimba and Margibi Counties.
Under the project, farmers are provided tools and implements; swamp development and water management ; teach farmers GAP—line transplanting, fertilizer application, disease and pest control and others.
The Smart-valleys approach was selected as an example of adaptation of African farmers to climate change and variability at the COP 22 Climate Change Conference, held in Marrakech, Morocco in 2016. The approach is highly being publicized across African continent.