Liberian farmers under the Community of Hope Agriculture Project (CHAP) continue to farm, using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) techniques, despite the COVID-19 lockdown restriction that has caused disruptions within the country's food supply chain systems.
SRI is a method used to increase the yield of rice and CHAP is the leading NGO in Liberia to encourage farmers to adopt the practice since it was introduced in the country.
The COVID-19 is negatively impacting agriculture globally, Liberia being no exception, as many smallholder farmers and other value chain actors find it difficult to increase production and access markets.
CHAP has initiated ways to keep farmers to enhance the SRI techniques to boost the cultivation of rice in its targeted counties, Nimba, Grand Gedeh, Cape Mount, Montserrado, Lofa, Bong, and Bomi during the lockdown. The organization has also encouraged farmers under the rice out-grower scheme "Rice Investment for Empowerment" (RISE) in alignment with the Ministry of Agriculture COVID-19 Food Security Plan that calls for farmers, processors, and traders to remain engaged.
CHAP is promoting the (SRI) principles for growing rice under the current health crisis as was done during the Ebola crisis in 2014-2015 under the regional SRI-WAAPP program, where they were supporting farmers in Grand Gedeh, River Gee, and Montserrado counties.
"We must keep the farmers engaged during this crisis to avoid the shortage of food, especially in these rural counties where imported food is not well accessible. The farmers are educated to observe the various health protocols while farming,' said Robert Bimba, Executive Director of CHAP.
"Many of the SRI farmers under this Scheme are actively farming and our Farmers Advisory Service (FAS) is helping to support the team in the field. Several farmers are currently harvesting in Lofa, and Bong, while others are scaring birds, doing land preparation, caring for the nursery, transplanting, overseeing farm management and marketing paddy," he added.
Farmers using power tillers to enhance productivities.
Bimba said that CHAP has engaged the MoA to make use of one of the four industrial rice mills in southeastern Liberia, financed by the African Development Bank under the Smallholder Agriculture Productivity Enhancement and Commercialization Project (SAPEC).
According to him, if the request is approved, it will boost rice production in the southeast using the SRI methods to increase yields and double the crop cycle twice a year.
Bimba added that they are working to ensure that farmers produce are bought in a timely manner to encourage them to produce more.
He further disclosed that they are promoting the use of technologies such as power tillers to increase farmers' productivity.
"CHAP, under the I love Liberian Rice initiative, has introduced the Farmers RISE PaymentApp to promote farmers' use of the technology. "We intend to commence training in two weeks targeting 10,000 farmers across the RISE investment counties along with Lonestar MTN," he said.
"This will enhance timely service delivery for inputs and payment for our farmers," he added.