Community extension officers trained in cocoa production

Solidaridad has trained 164 community extension officers to provide quality extension services to smallholder cocoa farmers in Liberia to improve their productivity.

The training, which was held in Bong and Nimba counties in November 2020, was aimed at addressing the lack of skilled human resources in the agricultural sector, focused on several modules including cocoa ecosystem, husbandry, rehabilitation, disease and pest management, nursery establishment, adult learning principles and post-harvest processes. 

Participants at the training included district agricultural officers from Liberia’s Ministry of Agriculture, graduates from agricultural colleges and persons selected from the various communities where Solidaridad implements its cocoa projects.  

“The training is to provide the participants with the requisite skills and knowledge to enable them to provide smallholder cocoa farmers and their communities with extension support services that will boost their production and add value to the cocoa they produce,” said Boima Bafaie, Solidaridad’s cocoa programme manager in Liberia. 

He said Solidaridad would monitor the activities of the trainees to make sure they are delivering the right training and messages to the farmers. This, he said, will ensure that the organization achieves its objective of improving the income and livelihoods of smallholder farmers.   

Establishing Farmer Field Schools

The trainees have been tasked to establish Farmer Field Schools to train and support 8,000 cocoa farmers under the Liberia Cocoa Sector Improvement Programme (LICSIP) and the Cocoa Value Chain Development Programme (COVADEP),  funded by the European Union in Liberia. 

The trained community extension officers will also support the rehabilitation of 1,670 hectares of aged cocoa farms belonging to 3,000 farmers under the Cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Programme (CORIP), which is funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands in Ghana

Extension service has always played an integral part of the agenda to transform Liberia’s agricultural sector and to revamp the economy.  But without trained field officers, this agenda cannot be realized.

Tonolah Varpilah, Liberia’s former minister of youth and sports

He said it was, therefore, exciting that Solidaridad has trained personnel to equip farmers who are in dire need of new knowledge.

The business side of agriculture

Mr Varpilah, who spoke at the closing ceremony of the training workshop, called for the establishment of a farmer business school that would help farmers understand the importance of farming as a business. 

“Most farmers are still poor in Liberia because they fail to see the business side of agriculture. To change the status quo, farmers need to be equipped with basic business management skills that help them to make investment decisions for the benefit of their farms,” he said. 

Participants expressed delight at the new skills and knowledge they have acquired, which they believe will help them deliver the much-needed extension support to farmers. 

For Emfed Farms Field Technician, Mulbah Freeman, he is excited that his services would play a critical role in enhancing the production of cocoa in Liberia. 

The participants were drawn from communities in Bong, Grand Gedeh, Lofa Nimba and River Gee counties where Solidaridad implements its cocoa programmes.