The Director-General of the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), Harold Roy-Macauley has completed a visit at the European Union-funded integrated rice and fish farming project under the Development of Smart Innovation through Research in Agriculture (DeSIRA) at the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) in Suakoko, Bong County.
Mr. Roy-Macaulay, who was recently on a four-day visit to Liberia from the Center’s headquarters in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, took stock of progress that is being made and lauded the technicians for the level of work that has been done thus far.
The DG’s visit was followed by a high-profile delegation from the European Union office in Liberia that also toured the field to ascertain how their funds are being utilized.
Both delegations were led on their respective tours by AfricaRice Country Representative, Dr. Innousa Akintayo and experts who are working on the project. They toured the fields of the project, which seeks to develop integrated, climate-smart rice-fish production systems sustainably and balance interventions on participatory research on rice-fish farming, development of successful extension service delivery systems.
Dr. Roy-Macualey, the members of the EU delegation, were ferried to the “floating cage,” an innovative technological fish pond that that has the capacity to host 40,000 fish in a safe, secure and eco-friendly environment on a lake at the CARI center. An impressd Dr. Macaulay bombarded experts with questions as he tried to get a better understanding of the initiative and how it would impact the Liberian society, especially in the area of nutrition and food security.
Locally fabricated machines as well as locally made feed for the fishes were also showcased during the tour.
Upon expressing joy over the innovation and the level of reception that the initiative is gaining in the country, Dr. Roy-Macaulay inquired about the sustainability aspect and how it could impact Liberia’s food security.
CARI, situated in the central Liberian town of Suakoko in Bong County about 180 km north of Monrovia, was a reliable and top-notch agriculture research center prior to Liberia’s civil war. It has been struggling to regain prewar status amidst numerous constraints.
AfricaRice and World Fish, with supervisory roles from the Ministry of Agriculture along with its secondary agencies CARI and the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA), are implementing this a three-year project that kicked off in July of this year.
Minister of Agriculture, Madam Jeanie Cooper, also paid a visit at the site on November 14, at which time she said that the DeSIRA project is her favorite project and one of the best agriculture initiatives for food security in Liberia.
She said if every stakeholder could invest in the initiative, it will improve income and create a sustainable nutrition value for most Liberian households.
Dr. Roy-Macauley and the EU team hoped that with the new integrated Rice-Fish farming technologies and with cooperation from Liberian stakeholders, it will improve incomes and create a sustainable nutrition value in most Liberian households.
Dr. Akintayo told his guests that the rice, fish and vegetable crops, which are being integrated at the site, are doing well and that the first harvest, which was done a little over a month ago, is a sign of better things to come.
DeSIRA, which is geared towards improving food security, nutrition and income in rural Liberia, came into being through an MOU between the government, represented by the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) and AfricaRice. It focuses on rice, fish and vegetable integration.
The MOU was cemented months ago in Monrovia with the signatures of the head of MOA, Madam Jennie Cooper; NaFAA, Emma Metieh Glassco and AfricaRice, Dr. Inoussa Akintayo.
Dr. Akintayo disclosed that the integrated rice and fish farmers are the primary direct beneficiaries of the project and will benefit directly through access to research, innovations, and technologies that will improve the sustainability and productivity of their products.
The project is to be implemented in five counties, namely Grand Gedeh, Maryland, Gbarpolu, Margibi, and River Gee counties and will target three hundred sixty-five rural smallholder farmers. The seedlings from the demonstration site at CARI will be distributed to farmers in the project counties, the AfricaRice boss noted at the launch in October.
Sixty percent of targeted farmers will be women inclusive householders/families to build on their roles as food producers and ensuring food and nutrition of their families.
Since the launch of the project in July, scores of local farmers from Bong County have been visiting to gain knowledge of the new technologies that they could take back home and help improve their farming systems for better yields. Scores of both secondary and university students have also paid visits to learn about the new technologies.
Formerly known as the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA), AfricaRice has been active in the agriculture sector from the 1980s. Since the end of the Liberian civil crisis, the organization has been more focused on innovation and technology in the agriculture sector in Liberia.
The organization has since been involved in the production of labor-saving equipment such as rice seeders/planters, rice reapers, harvesters, threshers, weeders, and parboilers—equipment that are produced by local technicians. “You know agriculture is labor-intensive, so there is a need that the country transitions to mechanized farming and this is the process that we are on,” Dr. Akintayo told the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview a few months ago.