The Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP) managed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has graduated 2,445 cocoa farmers following a 10-month intensive hands-on training. The exercise is part of STCP’s tree crops revitalization program in Liberia.
The beneficiaries were selected from Bong, Nimba and Lofa counties, respectively and trained in integrated crops and pest management (ICPM), planting, replanting and diversification, among others.
According to IITA National Program Manager here Jonathan Boiboi, the cocoa farmers also learned about shade management, black pod disease control methods, harvest and post harvest processing as well as nursery establishment and management.
He said such trainings are very essential to ensure that farmers have improved harvest through proper farm management as a result of knowledge and best practices acquired from STCP training program.
Boiboi indicated that as part of effort by his organization to discourage the issue of child labour most often practiced in cocoa producing areas, the farmers were introduced to social training that deals with the issue of child labor and other related abuses.
He said IITA remains supportive to the improvement of the agriculture sector of Liberia mainly in the area of tree crop production, which could further accelerate the country’s economic recovery process through the empowerment of local farmers.
IITA with funding from United Stated Agency for International Development under its Sustainable Tree Crop Program embarked on providing extension training in cocoa production techniques through farmer field school approach in the first 15 communities within Gbelay-Geh and Sanniquellie-Mahn Districts in Nimba County in 2006.
The training was extended to Bong and Lofa in 2007 and 2008, and continued in 2009, covering 19 districts and 167 communities. Another component of its program, the oil palm project operated for two years (2009 and 2010) in 30 of the 246 communities in Bong, Nimba and Lofa counties, targeting over eight hundred (800) palm farmers in the selected communities.
The oil palm farmers according to IITA National Program Manager received over 66, 000 pre-germinated high yielding oil palm seedling imported from Cameroon in the three counties.
As part of the organization commitment to transfer knowledge and skills to the farmers benefiting its oil palm program, a participatory training methodology was developed which led to the formation of the Farmer Learning Groups (FLGs) in each community benefiting from the project.
The FLGs requires each beneficiary to undergo nine months intensive training on the field in palm management and production before he /she is eligible to receive seedlings for planting. The IITA National Manager further indicated the third component of his organization program in Liberia is providing capacity building training for farmer organizations in cooperative management.
He mentioned under this component more than one thousand six hundred (1,600) cooperative members have benefited through training in basic management and recording to ensure they have requisite literacy in the management of their various cooperatives.