The Team Manager of the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI), Aaron Marshall, recently laid out some impressive plans for the Institute's work over the next few years. First and foremost among them is human development. Our Bong County Correspondent, Marcus Malayea, following an interview with Mr. Marshall last week, reported that CARI is poised to receive shortly an additional six Liberian Master's degree holders in specialized agricultural areas.
They will return and help to improve crop production and assist farmers in growing more food to enhance the nation's food security.
This is good news, but! What about Animal and Soil Scientists? How many veterinary doctors and soil scientists have we trained since Christian Baker, and J.T. Phillips–both of whom, now deceased, returned home in the 1950s?
Unfortunately, cattle production never took off in Liberia, even though cattle can grow in many places, including Grand Cess, Grand Kru County and Foya, Lofa County.
Government should encourage the few Liberian vets (veterinary doctors) and soil scientists working in the United States to return. The handful of Liberian cattle raisers should also be encouraged.
Today, after 167 years of independence, we are still importing beef from rain-starved Mali.
This newspaper has always called the nation's attention to Grand Cess, the natural habitat for cattle, that onetime had more cattle than people! Yet neither has the government, nor Liberians with money, like the Tubmans, whose Maryland County once controlled Grand Cess, nor the well-to-do sons of Grand Cess, like Cletus Wotorson and Blamo Nelson, ever attempted to develop a viable cattle ranch there. Besides, we are still importing chickens and eggs–one of the simplest husbandries to develop. What is CARI doing about that? Can CARI find one or two trained Liberian Poultry experts–on the ground and abroad–
and encourage them to end Liberia's dependence on foreign chickens and eggs?
In Mozambique it is the market women that supply poultry and eggs to the whole country. Market Association President Lusu Sloan, are you listening? We suggest that you lead a delegation to Mozambique to see what the women are doing there. Thelma Awori can put you in touch with them.
It is noteworthy that CARI has developed 20 different varieties of cassava that can dramatically increase the present yield, compared to the traditional cassava known as "Bassa Girl."
Can CARI and MOA work with the Booker Washington Institute in undertaking a crash course to train 100 Agricultural Extension Agents to carry the benefits of research to farmers throughout the country?
Moreover, it is upon CARI and its scientists that we must now depend to organize, at long last, the nation's agriculture. Government needs to send some of our experts to Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya and South Africa to see how they have been able to organize their agriculture and become food and flower-exporting nations.
One more challenge CARI must face: researching and further developing our tree crops. During our long civil war Liberia lost to Cote d'Ivoire the edge as Africa's leading rubber producer. We need to develop a crash program to encourage our rubber farmers to return to their farms and replant. It takes money, yes, but government should find it and reach out to rubber farmers, working with the Rubber Planters Association of Liberia (RPAL). The Rubber Development Unit should be reestablished to produce high yielding rubber scions and go on to manufacture rubber cups, buckets and other implements farmers need to reopen their farms. RPAL, with the cooperation of Morris American Rubber, can initiative this manufacturing initiative. The Chinese can help us to do it. Firestone could help–will they? Firestone, Guthrie, Cavalla and Morris American Rubber should also be deliberately encouraged to intensify their replanting programs. As always, of course, Firestone is already ahead. But it still has hundreds of thousands of acres of their one million-acre concession area that remain unused. All of our rubber planters–and even new ones–must know that we are in a race, and we can become number one again.
Coffee and cocoa, too, are challenges awaiting CARI's intervention.