Farmers in Maryland County begin rice harvest
The European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO)-funded project, entitled “Emergency food security assistance for Ivorian refugees and affected host communities in Liberia”, is being implemented in Nimba, Grand Gedeh and Maryland Counties with a total beneficiary caseload of 7 500 households (about 37 500 individuals). The project has three phases – Phases 1 and 3 are addressing the vegetable production needs of vulnerable populations, while Phase 2 focuses on rice cultivation in the three counties.
In early 2012, the Government of Liberia and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) began implementing the rice production component (Phase 2). In Maryland County alone, 1 000 Ivorian refugees and host community households received LAC-23 rice seeds, fertilizer and hand tools. FAO supports the use of the LAC-23 variety because it yields high results, grows fast and is nutritious, making it a better choice for upland cultivation.
Nearly six months on, beneficiaries began harvesting in early August. The launch ceremonies in Kakudi and New Pleebo communities brought together both refugees and host farmers as well as representatives of food sector agencies and Government functionaries. During the launch, both refugees and host farmers expressed gratitude to FAO, the Government of Liberia, and partners for the assistance. One farmer, Toto Wotto (refugee head of household), said: “LAC-23 rice is very good. It can grow and yield very well. We hope the Government could continue to help us with this LAC-23 so that it can be planted in all parts of Maryland.”
In Kakudi Village, the farmers said they were comfortable with the LAC-23 type. “The rice is really fine. It can grow well and tastes very nice. We will continue to grow this rice each year and keep seeds so that we do not lose it,” said Madam Meneannyene (host resident). Olando Jones (host resident), her husband, said: “With this rice we can feed our family. We are happy with the result, the rice did well.”
Mr. Wotto, who heads a family of four, expressed happiness over the quality of the rice and said they have stored 41 bundles. “We have been eating the rice since harvest started in August. Our two children who can help us with the farm work are now going to school in the afternoon. As you can see we have a swamp land farm where we planted another kind of rice,” Mr Wotto said.
In April, FAO launched the University Youth Empowerment Project aimed at assigning agriculture senior students/recent graduates in the counties to live and work with farmers in the communities to boost production. FAO intern Josephine Brewer of Tubman University in Harper said: “We provide assistance in rice production practices and work with both lowland and upland farmers. We assist with clearing, swamp rehabilitation, preparation of bounds, opening of canals, weeding, and spacing and other modern ways of increasing yields. We are the farmers’ friends.”