liberiaExtension in Liberia finds itself in a transition period as the country moves from the period of post-war relief and rehabilitation to an environment of development and growth. One of the four pillars of the country’s overall poverty reduction strategy is rebuilding infrastructure and providing basic services to a population including people economically active in agriculture. The pluralistic extension system in Liberia includes extension activities and programs delivered by NGOs, the Ministry of Agriculture’s (MOA) Extension program, and a variety of emerging private sector actors. While these three entities differ in their approach to extension and programs delivery to farmers, coordination comes from the Ministry of Agriculture through a committee (Agriculture Coordinating Committee) within the Department of Rural Development, Extension and Research, which meets monthly at the national level. These meetings serve as a platform for all extension actors for discussion of policy and agricultural concerns, and sharing of programmatic approaches.

Extension Providers

Major Extension Providers

The Department of Research, Extension and Rural Development (DRERD) is the most visibly decentralized department at the field level which faces similar staffing challenges as the MOA itself. According to the CAAS-Lib Synthesis Report (2007), the Department had only 20 of its 134 staff members deployed outside Monrovia, the Country’s capital. Although the MEAS Mission (2011) could not document the human resources capacity in the public and private extension service in Liberia, the report noted the shortage in extension personnel and recommended that the MOA hire at least another 70 qualified extension staff. The need for adding more Subject Matter Specialists (SMSs) who provide backstopping support to the field staff is critical given that at the present time a limited number of SMSs are actually located in the Department of Technical Services (DTS), which is a different unit from the DRERD.

Public Sector

The public sector is represented by the Ministry of Agriculture, the University of Liberia, College of Agriculture, and other universities and research institutions around the country. These institutions provide extension services through various departments and institutes listed below:

Public Extension Institutions

  • Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) www.moa.gov.lr  
    • Department of Regional Development, Research and Extension (DRDRE)

Public Research and Education Institutions

  • Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI)
  • Forest Development Authority (FDA)
  • Liberia Rubber Research Institute (LRRI)
  • University of Liberia, College of Agriculture
  • Cuttington University
  • Booker T. Washington’s (BTW) Vocational Education Institute
  • Songhai Agro-Enterprise Center
  • Department of Agricultural Extension and Education

Non-Public Sector

Private Sector Firms

The private sector in Liberia remains very underdeveloped and is still recovering from the war. The sector’s provision of extension and advisory services is noticeable in the areas of input supply to farmers; contract to provide extension services and technical advice to farmers associations, or in outgrower schemes method (e.g. a core farm or processing company that provides services and/or inputs to outgrower farms). In the outgrower scheme method, the private company works with the growers of a commodity to provide inputs on a contract basis, which is then paid off at the time these commodities are sold o the business. Most private sector suppliers of agricultural inputs are based in Monrovia and most of their businesses is conducted with NGOs who purchase inputs on behalf of farmers. 

Non-Governmental Organizations and other Donors

Prior to 1990, there were only four major international NGOs operating in Liberia (Partners for Productivity, Plan International, SOS Children Village and Experiment in International Living). Currently there are more than 34 local NGOs in the country, working in four sectors: agriculture and food production, business development, and education and sanitation. To support the Government effort in providing extension and advisory services to the largest possible number of farmers in Liberia, about 60 local and international NGOs currently assist farmers through funded projects in different counties and districts. These NGO are actively involved in implementing different strategies to increase agricultural productivity and farm income among small-scale farm households both in urban and rural areas. The New African Research and Development Agency (NARDA), a consortium of Liberian NGOs formed in 1987 coordinates the activities of NGOs, which operate through county networks. NGOs in Liberia have some potential but do not currently contribute to the research effort. Funds available for projects come from several donors and the most cited are USAID, FAO, IFAD, Gate & Melinda Foundation,   Some of the larger international NGOs include:

Farmer Based Organizations and Cooperatives

Producer organizations that group together smallholders and other forms of collective action (e.g., cooperatives) have proven to be effective in improving the performance of value chains and contributing to improved farmer welfare. In Liberia, famers in each county are organized into community, farmer and/or producer groups. The size of the group varies between thirty and approximately one hundred members. The County Extension Officer (CEO) is responsible for facilitating the organization and coordination of these groups. Producers are organized on the basis of the crops they produce. In Margibi County for example we have community groups such as cacao producers (mainly men), corn and peanut growers, rice and vegetable crops (cassava, pineapple) grower, and collective farming group. Some NGOs like BRAC use an integrated approach of providing micro-credit, inputs and advisory services to women. To implement their program, BRAC organizes women farmers as well as rural women into community groups. Other farmer based organizations include:

  • Progressive Farmer Organization, provides hand tools and seed supplied by the FAO through the CEO to farmers
  • Women in Peace Building Network specialized in producing vegetables (okra, long green bean etc.) on public land allocated by the MOA
  • United Farmers Association, has been operational for 5 years and focus on producing roots and tubers

These organizations and many more throughout Liberia have the merit of facilitating the provision of services such as extension, credit, inputs and marketing and through economies of scale, increase market power which may prove elusive to a single farmer.

List of Extension Providers

icon target The following list shows an excerpt from the GFRAS Directory of Extension Providers for Liberia. Some of these entries may be specially marked for having more detailed information in the database of the Worldwide Extension Study WWES.

Enabling Environment

Enabling (or Disabling) Environment

There are various missing links or weak connections between research, extension and farmers needs that prevent a proper flow of extension information from research laboratories to farmers’ field. Presently, the links between the research function of the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the extension agents and program of the MOA appear very limited. The lack of sufficient funds and the current emphasis on pressing needs and projects (rice seed multiplication) explain the insufficient coordination between these entities. Over time these links need to be strengthened and other applied research at Cuttington University and University of Liberia need to be connected to extension efforts. Liberian extension staff would benefit from easier access to existing technologies and agricultural research developed within the West African region.

ICT

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Agriculture and Extension

Internet has changed the way people communicate today and agricultural extension in many countries has adopted the new technology to improve its communication and information delivery system to famers. Although Liberia lags behind some other African countries like Ghana and Rwanda in term of internet access, the FAO project has provided internet access (through cell communication) to most if not all the County Agriculture offices. For extension staff to access and share information with producers, they will need communication devices and training on how to utilize them. Access to high-speed internet and the establishment of the Cooperative Development Agency (CDA) with the primary objective of making market information available for all of the major staple, horticulture, and tree crops as well as market information for livestock, fish and other agricultural products, will help extension service staffs better serve farmers. In addition, other technologies including mp3 players with pre-recorded extension messages, computer tablets with store extension materials, and printed brochures and pamphlets would usefully play a role in strengthening extension efforts.

Training

Training for Extension Professionals

It is apparent that many extension staff from the MOA needs in-service and pre-service training to some extends to cope with the changing environment. The University of Liberia through its Department of Agriculture can provide pre-service training at the bachelor level. The innovation could involve reevaluating and assessing the curriculums and courses in the general area of agricultural extension and development being offered, identifying gaps, and taking specific steps to address the gaps and related capacity issues. At the level of in-service training, a comprehensive staff development program should be implemented that identifies gaps in staff capacities (ICT, agricultural technologies, extension methods, environmental and water management, etc.) and develop a means of addressing these gaps.

Statistics

Statistical Indicators

Liberia                                                                                                                        Year

Agricultural land (sq km)

26,180

2008

Agricultural land (% of land area)

27.2

2008

Arable land (hectares)

400,000

2008

Arable land (% of land area)

4.15

2008

Arable land (hectares per person)

0.11

2008

Fertilizer consumption (per ha of arable land)

   

Agriculture, value added (% of GDP)

61.3

2008

Food production index (1999-2001 = 100)

131

2009

Food exports (% of merchandise exports)

   

Food imports (% of merchandise imports)

   

GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)

160

2009

Literacy rate, adult total (% of people ages 15 and above)*

59.1

2009

Literacy rate, youth female (% of females ages 15-24)

80.9

2009

Ratio of young literate females to males (% ages 15-24)

115

2009

Ratio of female to male secondary enrollment (%)

   

Mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people)

15.5

2007

 

19.3

2008

 

21.3

2009

Internet users (per 100 people)

0.6

2007

 

0.5

2008

 

0.5

2009

Population, total

3,954,979

2009

Population density (people per sq. km of land area)

41.1

2009

Rural population

1,549,561

2009

Rural population (% of total population)

39.2

2009

     

Agricultural population* 

2,399,000

2008

Agricultural population (% of total population)*

63

2008

Total economically active population in Agriculture*

883,000

2008

Total economically active population in Agriculture (in % of total economically active population)*

63

2008

Female economically active population in Agriculture (% of total active in agriculture)*

45

2008

Source: The World Bank, *Food and Agriculture Organization FAO

References

References

McNamara, P., B. Swanson, and B Simpson. 2011. Rebuilding and Strengthening the Pluralistic Extension System in Liberia. Report on the MEA Rapid Scoping Mission. Final Draft Submitted to USAID/Liberia, August 26, 2011. www.meas-extension.or