... National Standards Laboratory gets a major upgrade, but…
The Director of the National Standards Laboratory (NSL) says taking into consideration progress toward the implementation of the Cassava Transformation Project for Liberia, otherwise known as (CASTRAP), the country will soon start the exportation of food products.
The CASTRAP is a 4-year agriculture project of the West Africa Competitive Program (WACOMP) through the CERATH development organization in Liberia, with funding from the European Union.
A key part of the project is to support the development and upgrading of the national quality infrastructure of the NSL in order to ensure food safety and export opportunities for Liberian smallholder farmers.
Steven Mambu, director of the NSL named the renovation and refurbishment of the entity’s food chemistry lab and awareness creation among members of the Legislature about the passage of the National Standard Act as some of the things that are ongoing or completed by his institution to meet the objectives of the program.
According to him, those activities and others, when fully completed, will better prepare the country to begin the exportation of food under recognized food standards. He made the disclosure to stakeholders recently during a meeting held in Monrovia.
Stakeholders at a cassava transformation project meeting
Mr. Mambu stated that there are discussions with the policymakers on the need for the speedy passage of the National Standards Act. The National Standards Act has lingered at the Legislature since 2017.
“We have created awareness about the passage of the National Standards Act to ensure food regulation and the promotion of trade for the country. It is our hope that policymakers will soon see reason to pass the Act,” he told stakeholders during the meeting.
However, the NSL director said that there are a few other things outstanding about the activities under the project. “We have some challenges, especially when it has to do with inspection and monitoring of food products,” he explained.
Mr. Mambu used the meeting to thank the partners for the support to transform the standards laboratory.
For his part, the country director of CERATH, Leroy N. S. Kanmoh, mentioned that the cassava transformation project is supporting 1,500 smallholder farmers and agribusinesses in the southeast. Kanmoh said that farmers are receiving improved cassava planting materials and pieces of training to enable them to generate more income.
He said his institution remains committed to upgrading and equipping the standards laboratory so that Liberian farmers can begin the exportation of food in the sub-region and other countries. The CERATH country director also disclosed that they are working with the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) in Suakoko, Bong County to increase access to more planting materials for cassava farmers in the county.
According to him, many smallholder farmers in the southeast find it difficult to access improved planting materials. He further mentioned that though the project is meant for 4 years, there is a possibility for an extension.
Mr. Kanmoh stressed the need for commitment on the part of all stakeholders to ensure sustainability. Also speaking, Deputy Minister for Industry at the Ministry of Commerce, Thomas G. Goba Sr. called for strong collaboration on the part of all stakeholders to make the project successful.
Mr. Goba promised the fullest support of the Ministry to make the project sustainable.
Meanwhile, stakeholders have dedicated the Technical Service department of the NSL. The department was renovated and refurbished by CERATH, which implements the cassava transformation project.
Cassava is the second staple for Liberians and its production, if prioritized by the government, will help reduce hunger. But the production of the crop is still at a low scale and many smallholder producers are confronted with the challenge of access to improved planting materials and better market opportunities.
To overcome the challenges, the European Union, through WACOMP, has committed the funding to enhance production and marketing.
WACOMP is a partnership initiative of ECOWAS and the EU aligned to support the implementation of the regional policies including the West Africa Quality System program, whose aim is to strengthen the competitiveness of countries within the sub-region in order to enhance integration and international trade.