Traditional cocoa growers from more than five communities in Porkpa District, Grand Cape Mount County, have completed a ten-month intensive training on how to maintain and manage their cocoa farms.
The intent is to build the skills of cocoa farmers in the county aimed at increasing production.
The training was offered to over 100-local small scale cocoa farmers by an agribusiness consultant firm, Vainga Agriculture Development and Management Consultancy (VADEMCO).
They were trained in basic modern cocoa production, pest management and control, as well as, cocoa intensification, among others.
The training was a joint effort by VADEMCO and Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL), with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change Project.
The two organizations are aiming to empower farmers in forest-edged communities, mainly along the Gola Forest National Park (GFNP) in Grand Cape Mount County to revamp their existing cocoa farms while at the same time providing them special variety of cocoa seedlings.
At the end of the training, VADEMCO Chief Executive officer, Suliman Kamara, emphasized the need for government to invest more in the Cocoa sector because according to him it will enable Liberia compete with other countries in the Region” he said.
“It is so sickening that we have many natural resources in this country but we still suffer for food. Our government needs to do more because cocoa is so viable in the world,” he adds.
“If the farmers don’t have nothing we will be unable to offer them training, we will continue to fight for farmers”, Mr. Kamara emphasized.
He disclosed that currently, Liberia only has 20 cocoa exporters compare to other countries in the region. Mr. Kamara said this number can only increase if government invests in the sector and have an empowerment scheme for small holder cocoa farmers.
He believes Liberians’ mentality toward agriculture has led to Liberia’s small holder farmers to only concentrate farming for they and their family (subsistence framing) can eat or sell on small scale.
Beneficiaries of the training were encouraged to put into practice the skills they have acquired for the benefit of their communities and the country. Certificates of achievement were awarded to beneficiaries of the training.
In other remarks, Society for Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL) Communications officer Mark Dahn lauded the farmers for the skills acquired, and urged them to remain focus by increasing their production.
He pledged SCNL’s commitment to continue to work alongside cocoa farmers by building their capacity to increase production in Liberia through rainforest friendly cocoa planting technique which is widely practiced across West Africa.
For his part, the head of the cocoa farmer field school graduating class, Jerry Kerkulah thanked VADEMCO and SCNL for the opportunity given them to acquire such a unique knowledge.
“We have organized ourselves into corporative called “Kwa Peta”. People are buying shares in this corporative. We have over 150 registered members with 64 shareholders, our leadership structures is already in place,” Jerry told the audience.
About 82 males and 23 females were certificated after successfully completing the 10-month cocoa training from May 3, 2019 to January 2020.
Why Liberia still behind in cocoa production?
Study shows that poor soil fertility management, aging tree stocks, and improper use of chemicals are major threats to Liberian cocoa farms. Cocoa yields in Liberia stands at 200 kg per hectare about 30% of that of neighboring countries.
In 2016, the country produced about 9,603 metric tons of cocoa beans.
Ivory Coast remains the world’s leading supplier of cocoa accounting for about 30 percent of the world’s total cocoa, leading the rest of the world by over half a million metric tons with a total crop of 1,448,992 tones.