By Judoemue Kollie
The World Food Program in Liberia (WFP) has embarked on developing the capacity of more than 80,000 smallholder farmers in improved lowland development in 10 of Liberia’s 15 counties.
As part of efforts to meet this goal, WFP recently completed a 2-day workshop in Suakoko, Bong County for more than 80 persons comprising lead farmers, County Agriculture Coordinators (CACs) and District Agriculture Officers (DAOs) in the improved methods of swampland development.
The trained lead farmers, CACs and DAOs in the targeted counties will work with farming cooperatives to develop or rehabilitate 285 hectares of lowland.
The project is an asset creation plan designed as a food/cash for work scheme aimed at providing needed incentives for vulnerable food insecure smallholder farmers and their communities. These farming communities are expected to engage in the expansion of agricultural production through the development and rehabilitation of swamps with small scale irrigation facilities that will enable them to restore their livelihoods and increase agricultural production and farm incomes.
It is supported by the government of Japan under the Japanese grant fund for Ebola affected communities, through WFP-Liberia in collaboration with MOA.
The irrigation specialist at WFP, Faya Sandono, told the Daily Observer during the workshop that the project seeks to develop the skills of 886 smallholder farmers in the targeted counties.
“Our institution intends to encourage rural farmers to engage in more productive activities by adopting swamp development for rice production. It is important to note that in order to increase the production of rice in Liberia, farmers must also be encouraged to leave the upland and move to the lowland. The beneficiaries of the project will benefit from the construction of modern spillways (irrigation structures) that will enable double cropping,” he said.
He stated that 10 spillways, both concrete and wooden, will be constructed in the targeted counties, adding that they will increase the production capacity of the farmers to improve incomes.
“WFP is increasing the construction of irrigation infrastructures in the targeted counties to increase the production of rice in the lowlands,” he told the Daily Observer. “It is a concrete irrigation structure that will last for a long period of time,” he added.
According to Sandono, the project hopes to achieve the United Nations’ mandate to end hunger.
“This project is going to become sustainable because the farmers will receive enough training and encouragement on how to focus on lowland crop production. We seek to link the beneficiaries with the MOA in providing additional supports,” he stated.
Mr. Sandono added that the trained lead farmers and technicians from the selected counties will work closely with farmer cooperatives to provide technical support for the success of the project in the various counties.
The WFP’s irrigation specialist stated that despite partners’ support, lack of tools still remain a challenge for farmers.
“Many farmers are still complaining about the lack of tools but this project is not addressing such a concern. We are hopeful that with the support of the MOA, farmers will benefit from tools and seeds to expand production. With the food/cash for work under the project, the farmers are highly motivated,” he stated.
Nancy Flomo of the World Affected Women’s Cooperative in Suakoko district said: “We highly welcome the project because it will strengthen our abilities to grow more food for our families. We have benefitted a lot from the WFP program to the extent that today, we can sell produce to raise more income.”
The district agriculture officer (DAO) of Suakoko and Zota districts, Garsonide Watson, stated that with the intervention of the WFP project more farmers in his district are motivated to increase food production.
“Many farmers in Suakoko and Zota districts are now moving to the lowlands for rice production with support from partners. These farmers were provided with seeds and tools and they have adopted lowland rice production practices,” he said.