Monrovia – Following a week-long learning tour in Banjul, The Gambia, the Ministry of Agriculture with technical support from FAO Liberia will roll out lessons learned training on the management of a new model of community gardening called ‘Farming from Box’. The training will target eight beneficiary farming communities in Bong, Bomi, Margibi, and Nimber Counties. According to the Head of Programmes, Mr. Octavius Quarbo, the learning tour, which is proceeded by training, is in line with FAO Liberia’s effort in adopting a new model of community gardening called ‘Farming from a Box’. Farming from a Box provides a scalable agricultural infrastructure (a well-laid out farmland, poultry facility and irrigation system) to modernize community-driven farming in a cost-effective and sustainable way. The system comes equipped with solar power technology, irrigation systems, water purification resources, a greenhouse, office and cold storage facility.
According to Mr. Quarbo, eight of such gardens are being established in Margibi, Bomi, Nimba and Bong Counties. Through this intervention, the beneficiary farmers have undergone training on improved vegetable and poultry production. To better prepare the farmers for the set-up, management and operations of the community gardens, FAO Liberia sought technical support from FAO Gambia to learn from the experiences of its European Union-funded MDG 1 Project on Community Gardens. In that light, a four-person delegation comprising the FAO Liberia Head of Programmes, a representative from the Ministry of Agriculture and two farmers recently concluded a weeklong study tour to the Gambia. The delegation visited the community vegetable gardens at Njoben in the Central River Region and Madina Lamin Kanteh in North Bank Region as well as other Agriculture centres in The Gambia. They held meetings with the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Agriculture, the Director-General Department of Agriculture, the Director Planning Services Department, the Director-General Central Projects Coordination Unit, the Director-General National Agricultural Research Institute, various officials of the Ministry of Agriculture. The visiting delegation also had interactive discussions with farmers in different communities.
During the meetings with officials of the Department of Agriculture and Gambian farmers, Mr. Octavius Quarbo, FAO Liberia Head of Programmes outlined the objective of the visit. He indicated that FAO Liberia is establishing eight vegetable and poultry integrated gardens in four counties in Liberia. Therefore, The Gambia having had success stories operating such gardens, they thought it prudent to undertake a study tour to learn lessons from The Gambia. “As we prepare the beneficiary farmers to take ownership and management of these gardens established in four counties in Liberia, we thought it pertinent to bring them to The Gambia to learn from their fellow farmers best agricultural practices to adopt,” he said.
Mr. Victor Kolleh, representing the Liberian Ministry of Agriculture noted that he was keen to learn about the relationship between the FAO Gambia, the Ministry of Agriculture and the farmers. “For FAO Gambia to successfully implement projects, requires close collaboration with the host government and the farmers and I want to explore and learn from this relationship, especially with regards to the vegetable-poultry integrated garden model,” he said.
The visiting delegation led by FOA Liberia and the Ministry of Agriculture upon their return home will now cascade lessons learned from the practices, management and operational skills applied by their Gambia counterparts that have led to the success of similar community gardening project.
Farmers learning from each other
During the tour of the gardens, the delegation held interactive discussions with the farmers and shared experiences. The discussions centred on the composition of membership in the gardens, management structures, regulations, marketing, successes and challenges. The host farmers shared their experiences by highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. They also pointed out potential issues and challenges their counterparts may encounter. The guest farmers also shared their knowledge and experiences, suggested some ideas for hosts to try out and invited them to visit Liberia to learn from them too.
Based on his impression about the visit, Moses P. Willie, one of the farmers from Liberia said that he was very impressed with what he has seen and learned. “I am particularly impressed by the sense of ownership and unity amongst the farmers. This visited has inspired me more and I am even more motivated to ensure the success of our gardens back home”, he noted. He further noted that the discussions with their fellow farmers has accorded them the opportunity to anticipate the challenges they could encounter and therefore they could prepare themselves to better mitigate them.
According to Octavius Quarbo, the study has been a success as they have learned a lot from the Gambia experience. “The knowledge obtained and skills acquired will be shared with our respective beneficiary farming communities, in addition to leading the full establishment of leadership and adoption of management practices at each of the gardens,” he said.