Agricultural extension delivery still remains a serious challenge for Liberia’s agriculture sector.
Many smallholder farmers are lacking better extension services to improve productivity, thus posing a serious problem for food security within the country.
Agricultural extension is educating farmers on innovative farming practices or knowledge and making provision for inputs to farmers.
To ensure that Liberian farmers access diverse extension delivery services, stakeholders within the sector have introduced a new extension curriculum and manual for the country.
The new extension curriculum for Liberia is based mainly on the new Extensionist Learning Kit (NELK) which was prepared by the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services. It provides a holistic view of agricultural extension and rural advisory services involving multiple and diverse stakeholders to play a key role in a different part of the agricultural value chain to reach farmers with necessary services. This means that agricultural extension delivery will now be greatly private sector driven.
According to the stakeholders the curriculum for extension shall be rolled out in the fifteen counties of Liberia and the University of Liberia to enhance the knowledge of farmers and students on innovative agricultural practices.
For more than a decade the public sector has mainly driven agricultural extension in Liberia but with a little or no impact. Funding for the sector to improve extension delivery continues to remain limited within the country’s national budget, except monies from external sources.
The initiative to introduce the country’s agricultural extension delivery basically through the private sector is under the ‘Linking Extension and Research to Farmers for Sustainable Agriculture Food Security and Nutrition project, which is being implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, with support from the European Union.
According to FAO, the 2 million Euro, 2-year project is meant to support the government to review the extension policy and prepare both research and extension strategic documents. FAO also says the project supports institutional capacity building of research extension and business service providers.
Speaking recently during a workshop in Monrovia organized to acquaint stakeholders of the sector about the new extension curriculum, the Deputy Minister of Regional Development Research and Extension at the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. George Forpoh, said that the government now embraces a new approach to agricultural extension delivery for the country to improve food security.
According to Dr. Forpoh, private sector extension delivery is the way forward at the moment to improve the lives of farmers to make Liberia a food secure nation.
“The private sector extension delivery is the key way to go,” he said.
“How can we maximize the resources that have been brought internally and those coming from our donor partners to ensure that the agriculture sector to make us produce more for ourselves and others is some of the primary concerns of the partners.”
The deputy agriculture minister promised the government’s support to create an enabling environment to support the private sector.
“We shall work with the private sector to make sure they are supported to reach our farmers with the needed support. They will need our support to craft proposals that will enable them to get funding for the work they intend to do in the sector. Until we allow this kind of approach to take place, we shall get nowhere to change the narrative of the sector,” he informed his audience.
Dr. Forpoh thanked the European Union through the FAO for supporting the government in its drive to transform the agricultural sector.
He said as long as the private sector takes the lead in agricultural extension delivery and the government serves as monitor and regulator, the sector will experience tremendous transformation.
For her part, FAO country representative Mariatou Njie said that the project is implementing a market-led approach for extension delivery. She said as part of the extension delivery, the project developed extension materials and training manuals.
According to her, agriculture occupies the economic development of the country and the improvement of food security.
She said agriculture can be used to achieve food security at the household level of many of the citizens.
However, Madam Njie said despite the potential of the sector, it still faces low productivity.
According to her, the production level of the nation’s main staples such, as rice and cassava, is still at a low scale.
The FAO Rep said the research and extension of the country’s agriculture needs to be strengthened to solve farmers’ problems.
She said research extension plays a very key role in improving farmers’ productivity.
Meanwhile, Madam Njie said that her institution is also implementing a lot of other projects in Liberia to improve food security.
She used the occasion to express the FAO’s continuous commitment to support Liberia in improving its food system.
Also speaking, Louwagie Geetrui of the EU Delegation said that to promote agriculture extension in Liberia there is a need for better budgetary allocation for the sector.
“The main issue is how to make agriculture extension delivery happen because often these efforts are mostly supported at the level of projects. To ensure that service deliveries of the Ministry of Agriculture are strengthened, there is a need for the government to put more money in the budget for agriculture,” she explained.
She pledged EU’s support to make sure that the agricultural sector is transformed.