FAO Forestry Officer, Dr. Jonathan Wesley Roberts, makes remarks at the launch.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in collaboration with the Liberian government on Monday June 3, 2019, officially launched the Integrated Sustainable Rice System Development Project at the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) in Suakoko District, Bong County, to further improve the rice sector.
The project is being developed and funded by the Government of Japan with the FAO providing technical support.
Victor Kolleh, National Project Coordinator at the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), said the project is geared toward enhancing the productive capacity of smallholder farmers to sustain and increase productivity of rice as well as increase their incomes.
The project, according to Kolleh, will be implemented in Panta District, Bong County and Voinjama and Quardu Gboni districts in Lofa County. It will also focus on rehabilitating 50 hectares of lowland to produce rice primarily for consumption, and it will last for 12 months in the respective counties.
Additionally, the project will help to strengthen the underdeveloped value chain of rice, which will cover infrastructure development, production, as well as post-harvest development to include milling, packaging and marketing.
Kolleh informed the gathering that two post-harvest facilities will be constructed in the selected communities that will be equipped with modern processing equipment such as rice mills, De stoner, threshers, storage and drying slides.
Participants at the launch of the Integrated Sustainable Rice System Development Project at the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI)
The project is also intended to increase food security and incomes for farmers to improve the capacity of the MoA in the development of a competitive and inclusive rice value chain and to impact sustainable and productive rice system.
Agriculture Minister Dr. Mogana S. Flomo Jr., who officially launched project, lauded the FAO and the Japanese Government for the technical and financial supports. He assured them of the Liberian government's commitment to supporting the agriculture sector.
Flomo then challenged the farmers to make good use of the initiative, adding, "our problem in this country is sustainability, because anytime a program is introduced, that project died as the result of so many strategies and poor planning.
"It is not a good practice to always ask for food. The day that person does not have food to give you, you and your children will die from starvation," Minister Flomo reminded the participants.
Agriculture Minister Dr. Mogana S. Flomo Jr. addresses the launch of the project.
Earlier, the Forestry Officer at the FAO Dr. Jonathan Wesley Roberts, informed the participants that food security in Liberia is a challenge that the country is yet to overcome.
"In 2011 an average of 250,000 hectares of land were used for rice cultivation out of more than 500,000 hectares of land available for rice farming. Rice is grown in all parts of Liberia, but production is heavily concentrated only in Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties," Dr. Roberts said.
He named low production, high consumption and huge importation as some factors that are impeding the production of rice in the country.
Shiyiki Namba, a representative from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), reiterated his government's commitment in supporting agriculture in Liberia.
The project will be implemented by MoA in partnership with Africa Rice in closed collaboration with JICA, while FAO will provide the technical support.
The entire ceremony was climaxed with the participants presenting a work plan to facilitators that came from Ghana and Rwanda.