LSU AgCenter completes sustainable agriculture project in Liberia

Johnny Morgan  |  12/12/2016 3:45:27 PM

(12/09/16) BATON ROUGE. La. – After more than five years of working with the people of Liberia in North Africa, the latest LSU AgCenter project to improve agricultural practices there is coming to a close.

The country where a 14-year civil war nearly destroyed the entire nation has seen a resurgence in learning and providing a way to improve the lives of the Liberian people, said David Picha, director of International Programs at the AgCenter..

“They’ve been hurt for so many years,” Picha said. “During the civil war they lost over 100,000 people and more than 1 million were displaced.”

This has caused market confidence to be very low, he said. “Of the many African countries, it appears that Liberia has severely lagged behind the rest.”

Since 2011, the AgCenter has made great strides toward preparing the people of Liberia for improved agricultural practices like post-harvest storage, Picha said.

The U.S. Agency For International Development - funded Food and Enterprise Development program in Liberia began in September 2011 with current funding at $1.2 million.

LSU AgCenter professor of horticulture and sustainable agriculture Carl Motsenbocker said the AgCenter project focused on agricultural enterprises and improving farmer access to inputs.

Another goal of the project was to transform the postwar vocational training centers establish service centers in rural districts.

“They did have some challenges with infrastructure, such as a consistent electrical supply,” Motsenbocker said. “This makes it difficult to operate the labs needed for soil testing and other research activities.”

The three main components were to increase agricultural production and profitability, increase private enterprise, growth and investment, and to build local technical and managerial human resources, he said.

The bulk of the time was spent working with colleges and other schools, he said.

Retired AgCenter young ag producer program coordinator Brad Leger served as a consultant on the project, making a number of visits to help with curriculum development in the schools.

“We are in the process of developing programs like FFA by linking our students to students there,” he said.

Currently the Springfield FFA chapter in Livingston Parish is involved in the project, and a group from Belle Chasse is expected to come on board also, Leger said.

“The Liberians were a bit hesitant at first, but I let them know they could do this,” he said. “I had to remind them that there are no perfect schools or governments.”

In order to ensure sustainability of the project, Picha said, the plan is to charge a small fee for using the facilities, labs and equipment involved in soil testing and other research.

Liberia has many economic and social issues, he said, but countries like China and the European Union are starting to invest there.

“Right now, this is one of the least competitive agricultural countries in the world,” Picha said. “But it has huge potential, mainly because of its location on the Atlantic Ocean.”

Liberia is currently experiencing 30 to 40 percent post-harvest loses due to a lack of infrastructure, he said. This is hurting their chances at being involved in international trade.

“Liberia’s neighbors are getting it done,” Picha said. “But there is a need for long-term political stability so market confidence can be improved.”

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David Picha, director of International Programs at the AgCenter, discussed his role in the agricultural sustainability project that is ending after five years in Liberia during a recent Global Agriculture Hour program on campus. Picha’s work involved looking for ways to improve post-harvest storage capability in the African nation. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)

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Retired AgCenter employee Brad Leger worked as a consultant on the LSU AgCenter Liberia agricultural sustainability project and made a number of visits to the African country to help with curriculum development in the schools. He discussed his accomplishments at a recent Global Agriculture Hour program on campus. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)

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LSU AgCenter professor of horticulture and sustainable agriculture Carl Motsenbocker discussed the three components of the five-year agricultural sustainability project in Liberia during a recent Global Agriculture Hour on campus. He said the project focused on rice growers, cassava storage, goat production and improving farmers’ access to inputs. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)

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