When Johnny Cooper was Secretary of Agriculture during the Tubman era,there was some attention paid to livestock research, especially atthe Agricultural Research Station, commonly called Government Farm, in Suacoco, Bong County. It was Secretary Cooper, who in the mid-1950s hired Liberia’s first veterinarian, Dr. Christian E. Baker, to head the Animal Division at the Research Station, now the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI). Dr. Baker left in early 1961to become president of Cuttington College and Divinity School (now University).
Later Johnny Cooper’s niece, Ora Simpson (later Titus), became Liberia’s first woman to specialize in Animal Husbandry, and some of the older folks remember seeing her shepherding hundreds of cattle in Suacoco.
But what has happened to Liberia’s animal husbandry program–or to the nation’s livestock industry? Shall we say it is nearly non-existent?
We have today another Liberian woman specialist in this industry–Mrs. Seklau Wiles, daughter of the celebrated Liberia Marketing Association leader Gbeh Wreh. Seklau is married to another prominent Liberian agriculturist, Dr. Walter Wiles.
Currently head of the Livestock Program at the Ministry of Agriculture, Seklau was recruited into the program in 1974 by Ora Titus. Madam Titus was clearly happy to see another woman enter thefield.
To obtain a little more information on the livestock program, the Daily Observer contacted the current Team Leader at CARI, Mr. Aaron Marshall. He said that through a program supported by Landolake, a major American dairy producer, and the Food and Enterprise Developmentproject (FED) of the United States Agency for international Development (USAID), they are bringing in several hundred goats from The Gambia and Senegal, which are bigger and taller than Liberian goats. The aim is to crossbreed them with Liberian goats, which are smaller and shorter. The new and improved breed of goats will then be multiplied and distributed among Liberian livestock farmers, to expand their holdings.
As for cattle, Mr. Marshall said Liberia has brought in improved breeds of cattle from the West African Sub-Region, to be crossbred with our Maturu cattle, found mainly in Liberia’s southeast, especially Grand Cess, Grand Kru County.
According to Team Leader Marshall, Liberia’s Maturu cattle are smaller, but they possess one highly significant advantage: they have a natural resistance to the deadly tsetse fly, known throughout the tropics as a cattle menace (pest).
The crossbreeding of the Maturu with the improved imported breeds would hopefully lead to bigger cows and bulls, which Liberian livestock farmers can multiply, expand their cattle holdings and one day make Liberia self-sufficient in beef.
Mr. Marshall said though Liberia yet lacks a veterinary doctor, there are a number of Liberian animal nutritionists, hygienists and productionists, including nutritionist Arthur Karnouh, who are working with the Livestock program at CARI.
We commend Mr. Marshall and his Team at CARI for these bold and significant initiatives in livestock development. We pray that theywill be successful and, at long last, lead Liberia towardself-sufficiency in meat.
Mr. Marshall said the new breed of goats would be shared only with goat producers, not goat herders, whose goats roam about indiscriminately destroying farmers’ crops. We hope that CARI will be able and willing to bring the goat herders, too, into the fold, encourage them to fence their goats and become part of the crossbreeding program.
Marshall says the Agriculture Ministry has also succeeded inorganizing a Pork Producers Association. The aim here is to enable them to share medication, technology and best practices, and improve and expand their pig farms. This would make it totally unnecessary for anyone to import pork.
It could also lead to the development of the agro-industry, beginning with the making of ham, bacon and sausage, as well as salted pig feet and other pig parts, which Liberians love to eat.
As for poultry and eggs, the Ministry is pinning its hopes on the Obasanjo Farm in Grand Cape Mount County, whose 95,000 capacity hatchery commissioned recently by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is set to revolutionize the industry in Liberia.
We hope that the Agriculture Ministry will re-engage the nation’s poultry farmers and encourage them to take the fullest advantage of the Obasanjo farm. As we said in a recent editorial, this will hopefully begin the process by which Liberia will become self-sufficient in poultry and eggs.