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Rice production per hectare has tripled for farmers in South East Liberia, with yields up to 3 tons per hectare for now, as compared with the traditional long-duration low-yielding, less than 1 ton per hectare.
This is one of the first outcomes of a flagship agriculture project financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Liberia, the Agriculture Sector Rehabilitation Project, launched in 2010.
The civil war in Liberia contributed to the neglect of the agriculture sector. This neglect caused serious food insecurity and lack of capacity building and empowerment of rural farming communities.
In order to address the issue, the government of Liberia and the AfDB have agreed to invest the sum of US$24 million to revitalize the agriculture sector through the Agriculture Sector Rehabilitation Project.
The project aims at contributing to food security and poverty reduction by enhancing food security and building community empowerment in highly deprived rural communities in four out of the fifteen Liberian counties: Grand Kru, Maryland, River Gee and Grand Gedeh.
The project focused on lowland rice cultivation; through rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure for eight swamps. The schemes will ensure efficient water management to support double-cropping in a year.
The introduction of new on-farm technologies has started enhancing efficiency in farming. The project introduced new short-duration, high yielding NERICA (New Rice for Africa) varieties of rice, giving yields up to 3 tons per hectare for now, as compared with the traditional long-duration low-yielding, less than 1 ton per hectare. The new varieties can be grown twice a year as compared to the long-duration traditional varieties which are low-yielding and can only be harvested once a year.
Farmers have also been introduced to the use of new technologies in agriculture as labor-saving devices and improved farming practices.
The introduction of community infrastructures, such as warehouses, rice milling facilities, have also started significantly reducing post-harvest losses experienced by the farming communities in the past.
Rehabilitation of farm-to-market roads has shown potential for improving access to agricultural inputs or outputs, as well as to markets.
Creating awareness of the new farming technologies among the farming communities has increased enthusiasm to participate in the project activities. The communities have been organized to manage their farming activities. The functional literacy life skills, numeracy and book keeping, acquired from the project is improving their agribusiness practices.
By 2016, the project will close. In order to ensure the sustainability of the project achievements, the capacity building of the Ministry of Agriculture has been enhanced through training of its technical staff and engineers, and equipping the County Agriculture Office.
Empowering the farming communities to organize themselves and making use of their functional literacy skills in agri-business will significantly contribute towards sustainability of the project achievements in the four project counties.
Any future project that will intervene in these four counties such as the Smallholder Agricultural Productivity Enhancement and Commercialization Project, launched in November 2013, should build upon the demonstrated achievements made by this project. Scaling up these demonstrated achievements throughout the other parts of the counties would accelerate food security and poverty reduction.