LIBERIA – The Liberian government in collaboration with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have launched an Integrated Sustainable Rice System Development Project aimed to boost production.

The project was launched at the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) in Suakoko District, Bong County through financial support from the Government of Japan with the FAO providing technical support.

Victor Kolleh, National Project Coordinator at the Ministry of Agriculture, said the project is geared toward enhancing the productive capacity of smallholder farmers to sustain and increase productivity of rice.

Kolleh revealed that the project will be implemented in Panta District, Bong County and Voinjama and Quardu Gboni districts in Lofa County and will also help improve smallholder farmers’ incomes.

The project will help to strengthen the underdeveloped value chain of rice, which will cover infrastructure development, production, as well as post-harvest development to include milling, packaging and marketing.

The one year project will also focus on rehabilitating 50 hectares of lowland to produce rice primarily for consumption.

According to Kolleh, the initiative will see construction of two post-harvest facilities in the selected communities equipped with modern processing equipment such as rice mills, De stoner, threshers, storage and drying slides.

The project is also intended to increase food security and incomes for farmers to improve the capacity of the ministry of agriculture in the development of a competitive and inclusive rice value chain and to impact sustainable and productive rice system.

Speaking during the launch, Agriculture Minister Dr. Mogana S. Flomo Jr., hailed the FAO and the Japanese Government for the technical and financial supports saying the initiative will enhance food security in the country.

According to the Forestry Officer at the FAO, Dr. Jonathan Roberts, rice is an important commodity in the countrys food basket but the value chain still records low investment.

He highlighted low acreage and huge importation as some factors that are impeding the production of rice in the country despite the high consumption.

“In 2011 an average of 250,000 hectares of land were used for rice cultivation out of more than 500,000 hectares of land available for rice farming.

Rice is grown in all parts of Liberia, but production is heavily concentrated only in Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties,” Dr. Roberts said.

Shiyiki Namba, a representative from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), reiterated his government’s commitment in supporting agriculture in Liberia.

The project will also work in partnership with Africa Rice and facilitators from Ghana and Rwanda.