Gbarpolu county registers second fish harvest, as youth and women applaud EU-funded project
Youth and women of Farwen-Ta in Gbarpolu County recently applauded the European Union for funding an Integrated Rice Fish Farming System (IRFFS) project that is changing the farming narrative of the county. Recently, household farmers celebrated another fish harvest a month after a similar harvest was celebrated in neighboring town, Yangayah, Gbarma District.
The harvest saw onlookers cheering farmers as they displayed the fish they captured; young men and women dominated the harvest exercise.
Otis Stephens is the lead farmer of the group in Farwen Town. He shoulders a few responsibilities- mobilize the workforce, plan work schedules, conduct meetings regarding the group’s vision, and mediate between implementing partners of the DeSIRA-IRFFS project and his group.
“I knew from the start that the result of today could make people stay or get them discouraged and leave the group. So everything I have been doing as the leader was to see that our first harvest is a success,”said Stephens.
Otis also attributed the successful harvest to the swift response from the project’s extensionist assigned in the county whenever they called on him.
“Although all seemed very new at first, the project’s representative here [Project Extensionist] worked with us to reach this far. And today, we want to give him his flower while he is alive,said Stephens.
Stephens added that his group intends to capitalize on their early success in the integrated rice-fish farming system (IRFFS) to win over manpower for the continual expansion of IRFFS plots.
“We will always mention this harvest when engaging people, particularly the young people who are not doing anything,” he said when asked how the harvest could change his mobilization approach.
Unemployment, particularly among young Liberians, has triggered responses from many fronts, from the government to development partners. One-third of the Liberian population is between 15 and 35 years old, and it has been estimated that approximately a third of the youths in the Liberian labor force are unemployed.
However, the introduction of the DeSIRA Integrated Rice-Fish Farming System (IRFFS) project in Liberia is poised to mitigate rural poverty. Its aim is to increase farmers’ income and improve food and nutrition security.
What is the EU-funded DeSIRA-IRFFS project?
The DeSIRA-IRFFS project aims to improve food and nutrition security by transforming low-yielding, climate-risky traditional rice-fish production systems into more climate-resilient, high-yielding, resource-use efficient systems in Liberia. The project targets 174 household farmers and is implemented in Gbarpolu, Grand Gedeh, Maryland, Margibi, and River Gee. Africa Rice and World Fish are implementing the DeSIRA-IRFFS project in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI), and the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA).
Project Support So Far
Beneficiary farmers have already benefited from technical support, improved rice variety, and a high growth rate of Nile-tilapia fish from the DeSIRA-IRFFS project since its inception in 2020, said Dr. Inoussa Akintayo, Africa Rice Country Representative/Project Coordinator DeSIRA-IRFFS.
He added that the project is geared toward launching young Liberians into agribusiness, a concept where one operates aspect of agriculture production as a business.
“Rice and fish are two in-demand commodities in the country. A farmer who can provide these two commodities to the Liberian population contributes to food and nutrition security and makes money for oneself. How does one arrive here, one may ask? The answer is simple. “The training on IRFFS production, small-scale machinery operation and maintenance, the supply of rice seeds and fingerlings, are all preparation to making you that farmers, particularly the youth who will continue to produce food and experience the benefits of doing farming as a business,”said Dr. Akintayo, Project Coordinator- DeSIRa-IRFFS project
Similarly, Joseph B. Akoi, Development Superintendent of Gbarpolu County, also stressed the importance of farming as a business when he spoke to the Farwen Town farmers group.
“Rice-fish farming is new to Liberia, but today’s result shows that this type of agriculture is profitable. Indeed this is a life-changing opportunity for our people, especially the young people of this county, and I am encouraging them to take this opportunity very seriously. Once again, on behalf of the country authorities, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to the European Union and the implementing partners of this project,” he said.
What is the IRFF System?
Under this IRFF system, farmers grow rice and fish together in a pond or field. Although this farming system requires intensity, particularly when constructing the ponds, farmers reap the reward of their labors at the end of the day. The IRFFS is also a climate-smart technology that discourages deforestation and encourages sustainable land use, such as wetlands.