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Africa Rice gets bundles of praises at NAF

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-UN, UNDP others pleased with work at the center

Stakeholders at the just ended National agriculture Fair (NAF) held at the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) in Suakoko, Bong County, have lavished praises on AfricaRice, an agricultural research center, for its high level of innovation.

Farmers from across the country last week converged at the (NAF) CARI where they showcased their produce. Also on display were products with exquisite values addition brought at the fair by farmers and other entrepreneurs.

But among all of these, AfricaRice’s Integrated Rice-Fish Farming System (IRFFS) project situated in Suakoko stood tall among the rest and attracted praises from stakeholders and partners who graced the event.

The IRFFS project, also known as the DeSIRAprojecr, seeks to develop integrated, climate-smart rice-fish production systems sustainably and development of successful extension service delivery systems. The initiative is funded by European Union (EU).

DeSIRA geared towards improving food security, nutrition and wealth creation, especially for rural farmers. The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) and CARI are collaborating with the implementers on the project.

With the needed support and investment, this farming method and its accompanying innovations, according to experts, can solve Liberia’s food insecurity and nutritional problems in a few years.

The project, during the NAF, attracted scores of other high profile dignitaries who lauded the implementers after being amazed by what they saw.

Some of these include United Nations Resident Coordinator, Neils Scott, EU Ambassador, Laurent Delahousse; UNDP Resident Coordinator, Stephen Rodriques; French Ambassador, Michael Roux and the team leader at GROW-Liberia, Umar Mohammed among others.

The visiting delegates were taken on a guided tour of the project when they were given an understanding of the initiative and how it would impact the agric sector.

They were ferried to an innovative technological fishpond, known as the Floating Cage, with capacities to host 40,000 fish, each, in a safe, secure and eco-friendly environment on a man-made lake at CARI. They also visited fields were rice and fish are being grown side by side.

An impressed Agriculture Minister Cooper lauded AfricaRice for the innovations put into the project. She noted, “This is what we want to see in the sector. And I strongly believe this is setting the stage for better things to come.”

She expressed excitement that everything in the project, (The cages, the fish feeds, machines and others), is locally made. She paid tribute to Dr. Akintayo for his insightful innovations. “This project is an innovation of Dr. Akintayo.”

Having the rice and fish together is the most interest part to the minister, who noted, “The two are rolled out together. So you have your rice and fish side by side.” Minister Cooper was even more fascinated about the Floating Cage. “Fishes are growing in cages, depicting that Liberia’s potential for aquaculture is enormous,” she said.

Each of the floating cages contains over ten thousand fish—at times growing to one and a half or two pounds in just six months. “This is a huge business opportunity. We have eleven large rivers across the country where this can be replicated and it will bring us huge dividends,” the minister, who has since described the project as her favorite, said.

“This will improve income and create a sustainable nutrition value for most Liberian households and it would do far better if we invest more,” she said.

UN Resident Coordinator Scott said the DeSIRA project provides a clear understanding as to where agriculture is and should be heading in Liberia—innovation.

“So what we see here is an excellent example of how you can change the dynamics of agriculture with not so huge an investment, but by using innovations, and enterprising approach, and by making sure the profile of the sector changes,” Coordinator Scott said.

With the level of innovations AfricaRice has put in the project, he believes the agriculture sector would change rapidly. “And this is on the basis of what we are seeing here today. We, fully support the government on this. And we really look forward to results, with gratitude to people who are behind these exquisite innovations.”

Scott hopes the project is taken to other parts of the country. “This is not only by using innovative means and having regard for production, but post harvest and value addition.

The UN head termed the display at the site as a fundamental message to President George Weah that the sector has a direction that he and his government need to look at critically.“We at the UN fully support this. We will be supporting reasonable investments at every stage in the sector as we have been doing,” he said.

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