Farmers in Western Liberia on Friday, December 18, gathered in a farming village in Bomi County to begin the harvest of over 30 hectares of improved cassava cultivated under the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP) supported initiative.
Wilson Town on the outskirt of Tubmanburg was the scene of joy when several farmers, were joined by senior staff of the Ministry of Agriculture and its Program Management Unit (PMU), the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI), local government officials of Bomi County among others, to begin the process of harvesting over 30 hectares of improved cassava that cultivated under the Bomi Innovation Platform.
The small farming village and its inhabitants have been benefiting from different forms of support including financing, training, implements, etc. from the World Bank funded WAAPP Liberia Project to improve their farming activities. The Youth for Positive Change, (YPC), producer of the Famous Bomi Gari has been the lead group within the Innovation Platform in Bomi County.
The new planting material or technology as it is called among WAAPP participating countries, was brought in from an agriculture research institute in Nigeria, multiplied at CARI, and subsequently divided in country for smallholder farmers to begin planting and multiplying. There are over 150 individual farmers and farming groups that are currently using the new and improved planting materials in Bomi County.
The Deputy Minister for Extension and Research at the MOA said; this was just the beginning of what the Agriculture Ministry intends to do before the current government’s time in office is over. Thomas Gbokie disclosed that the Liberian leader has put together a team of experts from different sectors of government to begin the process of shifting Liberia’s economic drive away from the extractive industry to agriculture, something that is very well working in other developing countries.
Gbokie noted that it was important to also graduate from our current way of farming manually to mechanize, something that will reduce labor and produce more. “If Liberia is to feed itself, and begin exporting the surplus to others in need, we will need to cultivate larger farms, and to do that, we will need machines”, he said.
The Deputy Minister noted he was pleased to see the YPC producing up to standard, even with the little help given. “We took the packaged Bomi Gari to the regional meeting in Senegal and it was competing with products from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and others, and those are countries that are way ahead of us in agriculture”, he asserted.
The Acting Director of the Program Management Unit who also made remarks at the program said there were positive plans to continue to engage the farmers to produce more food. Speaking when he joined other participants of the program, Wiliam Kawalawu said he was please to see that the yields of the current material being planted is several times more than the traditional cassava we plant. The Acting Director who is also the National Coordinator of SAPEC project at the PMU said there were countries he worked in that didn’t have the advantaged soil and weather as Liberia, but they still grew food. “Why do we have very rich soil and good weather in Liberia but still wonder if we can feed ourselves? We can with the commitment of all the partners on board”, He said.
Kawalawu noted that SAPEC was learning from WAAPP successes it has had with farmers, and was building on it to sustain the support provided farmers in the event that the WAAPP project fades out.
For his part, WAAPP Liberia National Project Coordinator said it was a good feeling to see what has been put into the soil come out so well. J. Cyrus Saygbe, Sr. said getting the farmers to adopt was the hardest part, as they had to abandon their traditional cassava and planting methods for a strange cassava and a labor demanding method of planting. “Once they realized the yields were 3 to 4 times more than their traditional cassava, they began to do larger farms, one of which we are harvesting today”, he said.
With interventions like the Innovation Platform, a new method of farming introduced under the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program, (WAAPP) Liberia project, Liberia is set to be food secured with committed farmers and continued support. The Innovation Platform introduces new ways of planting, supplies improved planting materials and includes several actors along the line, including; farmers, processers, transporters, craft men, financing institutions, local government officials and others.