Saturday, August 28, 2010

Liberian Swamp Rehab to Increase Rice Production

Liberia is one of the latest targets of a UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) rehabilitation program. In order to cut the nation's dependence on rice imports and improve the lives of farming families, the UN is working to restore Liberia's fertile lowlands, that make up approximately one fifth of the country.

The Liberian Government has decided that swamp rehabilitation is the most important step to take in this process. "In the swamps, you can grow two, three crops of rice per year, compared to just one per year on upland slopes," said Sheku Kamara, an agricultural engineer with the FAO. By focusing on swamps, especially those with abandoned or damaged rice fields, farmers have the potential to yield up to 80 or 90 percent more rice than farmers in other parts of the country.

The program includes training in sustainable farming techniques, in addition to seed and tool distribution for civilians, while the Government will be trained in how to conduct better crop surveys and how to improve the national system for producing, testing and storing seeds.

Since the end of Liberia's Civil War in 2003 the amount of domestic rice production has increased, however it still imports 60 percent of the rice it consumes. The UN is involving thousands of farmers that fled the country during the war, who have since returned, in this agricultural rehabilitation program.

-Devynn Patterson