The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) with support and funding from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has engaged several extension workers in a three-day training at the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) in Suakoko District, Bong County.
The 24 extension officers, including six employees from the Liberia Institute for Geo-Information Services, were trained in the latest data collection technology. At the end of the training, each participant received a state of the art mobile phone that they will use for the at their assigned areas of work.
In an interview with this newspaper recently, Nasi Broh, National Project Coordinator for the Rebuilding of Statistics at the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), said the participants were selected from Bong, Lofa, Nimba and Bomi counties.
According to Broh, they are trained to use the CAPI application the ministry recently introduced and is installing on the various mobile phones to collect key information from livestock and crop farmers in the four counties in relation to production.
He said that Bong, Nimba and Lofa counties were selected as part of this Agriculture Sample Pilot Survey from statistics which indicate that they are 'the highest food producing counties,' while Bomi County was selected as 'the least food producing county' to test the project.
"The sole objective of the training was to rebuild the capacity of extension officers, re-establish the data collection by means of modern technology through the CAPI, where agriculture extension officers will interview farmers on the production of livestock and crops for the Agriculture Sample Survey," Broh said.
According to the MOA project coordinator, with the introduction of the new technology - and as part of the pilot phase of the project, the MOA will be able to establish challenges the farmers are faced with, the level of production and services provided to individual farmers and farmers' access to extension officers.
Broh said the 'new automated collection of agriculture data' introduced for the first time in the four counties, will help the ministry in setting up an effective agriculture data management system.
"Since this country gained independence, we have used the manual collection of paper data, and we have made no gains in terms of statistics of production. So I think with this new technology, we will be able to effectively keep data on our farmers to avoid going to the FAO or WFP for data, which is not good for us as a country," Broh said.
A representative of the participants commended the FAO for the support to the MOA to facilitate such an important training workshop that is expected to help them keep data collected from the farmers and to set up an effective agriculture management system in the country.