The Ministry Agriculture (MoA) through its Tree Crop Extension Project - TCEP recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) to establish a cocoa seed garden in Liberia.
The signing ceremony was held at the Ministry of Agriculture Program Management Unit (PMU) in Fendell, outside Monrovia.
The first national cocoa seed garden will guarantee the availability of improved, certified and quality planting materials (seeds and seedlings) for smallholder cocoa farmers, village nurseries and privately owned nursery farmers across the 15 counties of Liberia.
The 30.4-hectares of cocoa seed garden is estimated at US$1.537 million and it shall be located in Beeplay (Buu-Yao District), Nimba County.
Mr. Raymond Ogonti, Director of PMU, said during the signing ceremony that the creation of the cocoa seed garden will reduce the challenges faced by farmers in the cocoa sector, especially as regards Liberia's reliance to the importation of cocoa seedling.
The Director General at CARI, Dr. Marcus Jones, stated that the seed garden will put an end to the importation of poor quality cocoa seedlings.
He also said that the exercise is expected to build the capacity of the cocoa sector in line with the Government's Pro-Poor Agenda.
Meanwhile, the Project Coordinator of the Tree Crop Extension Project (TCEP), Mr. Emmanuel G. Vah has stressed the need for service providers and for farmers to be proactive in making cocoa farming a reality.
Mr. Vah, who earlier signed on behalf of the MOA, expressed thanks to partners for the implementation of the project.
The TCEP is funded by the Government of Liberia (GOL) through a loan received from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Adaptation for Smallholders Agricultural Program (ASAP).
The project is designed to reach at least 11,000 beneficiaries which include 8,000 smallholder cocoa producers who are members of cooperatives and farmers from Field Schools (FFS); create access to road for 2,400 farmers, enhance input supplies and market linkages and among other assistance to the beneficiaries along the value chain.
It is expected to further improve household incomes of smallholder cocoa farmers, and address climate change challenges that confront smallholder cocoa producers, particularly women and youths who are members of Farmers Based Organizations (FBOs).