LIBERIA - An agronomist at Wienco Liberia Limited (WLL), Eric Asante Antwi, has said that the company is poised to invest US$5m in Liberia's cocoa sector to help boost the production of the crop in the country.
Antwi said this amount will be invested in the next couple of years in order to empower cocoa farmers with the requisite fertilizers and other agriculture inputs that would help increase production in the sector.
Speaking with newsmen in Monrovia upon the arrival of some Liberian cocoa farmers from Ghana, who went on a week-long knowledge seeking field trip, Mr. Antwi said Liberia has all it takes to become successful in cocoa production in the West African region.
He said his company wants to see the sector boom as it has the potential to improve the country's economy.
"I think that with our last meeting our country director said that we are bringing in US$5m to improve the cocoa sector. We want to see a significant improvement in Liberia and this is already being visible," he added.
"All over West Africa, everybody is looking at Liberia in terms of cocoa production. We have the land and our land is good for tree crops production. Our target is to help our small farmers to improve and run this sector."
Mr. Antwi is craving for the establishment of a Liberian version of the AGM in the country, where regional or county leadership would be elected to steer the affairs of cocoa farmers in the country.
"This process will be spearheaded by the farmers themselves. They will elect their executive that will head the Cocoa Lela (a cooperative venture)," he noted.
"The AGM was open and our farmers were introduced to their Ghanaian counterparts. About 12,000 farmers from all over the country attended the AGM."
In this knowledge gaining trip, the Ghanaian agronomist said the farmers learned a lot of things which will be of great help to them as they go about their farming business.
One of the most important things they learned, he said, was about cross pollination.
"We have two forms of pollinations; the one that is physically done by our hands and the one we allow the insects, beads, bugs and other flying insects to do. We make them to understand that the hand pollination is the one that we can use for planting.
"I don't know whether any of them in this room had any prior knowledge on that. Not all of the cocoa pods are meant for planting. You may be given some imports to use, but if you don't know the varieties after planting you may realize nothing.
This is why we have gone on this trip to teach our local farmers these technical things so they can have better yields," he said.
He referred to the returning farmers as ambassadors for cocoa farmers across the country. He said they are now going to be used as Trainers of Trainers (TOT). "We are going to make sure that they share their experiences with others who were not able to make the trip."
WIENCO currently works with one thousand registered farmers in three counties: Bong, Nimba and Lofa and is currently extending to two others: Grand Gedeh and River Gee. The company is also providing assistance and technical support to an additional three hundred farmers.
November 15, 2015; http://allafrica.com/stories/201511121258.html