22 December 2003, Rome -- Much of
Liberia's seed stocks have been destroyed after 14 years of
civil war and urgently need to be replenished, according to FAO.
Recent assessments indicate that three out
of four farmers do not have access to rice seeds for the 2004
season. The UN agency launched an appeal for $2 million to
provide 70 000 farm families with 700 tonnes of rice seeds.
"Two million dollars is a
relatively low price to pay to ensure that half a million
Liberians will not go to bed hungry, or at best will not be
dependent on food aid next year," said Subraman
Thirugnanasambanthar, FAO Representative in Liberia.
"Stimulating agricultural production is far
more cost-effective and sustainable in the long-term, than
providing food aid to the same number of people," he
"A potentially disastrous
situation can be avoided if farmers in stable areas receive rice
seeds in time to ensure their own food security and to increase
After 14 years
of civil conflict, Liberia's agricultural system and
infrastructure has been seriously damaged and malnutrition is
widely spread, particularly among children.
A narrow window of opportunity
With much of the country's seed stocks
decimated due to the protracted war which ended in August 2003,
FAO is planning to supplement local rice seed procurement with
suitable varieties found within the region.
The rice planting season begins in April and goes
through June, although land clearing and preparation often
starts as early as December. Seeds have to be procured and
distributed between January and April 2004 in time for planting.
Two main staple crops feed Liberians, rice
and cassava. Rice is the preferred crop but cassava is also
widely consumed, especially when rice is in short supply, just
before harvest, when stocks of rice have
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570