India builds capacities of African countries through imparting training in agricultural marketing management

The Indo-U.S.-Africa triangular programme on agriculture by the Jaipur-based National Institute of Agricultural Marketing (NIAM) has opened up new vistas in sharing knowledge and capacity building of the Officers of Agriculture from Africa to play an effective role in meeting the challenges of food security and globalisation.

NIAM, being an apex institute for training in agriculture marketing, is training officers of agriculture from the Ministries of Agriculture of Kenya, Liberia and Malawi under a trilateral agreement.

Liberia is richly endowed with water, mineral resources, forests, and a climate favorable for agriculture. A civil war that started here in the early 1980s and lasted till 1996 destroyed much of the country’s economy, especially the infrastructure in and around Monrovia, the Capital. Liberia had been a producer and exporter of basic products, while local manufacturing, mainly foreign owned, had been small in scope.

Most of Liberia’s people live by subsistence farming. The staple food crops are rice, cassava, banana, sugar cane and tropical fruits. Farmer households also rear sheep and goats for the purpose of meat.

While discussing the status of mechanisation, Henry Roberts, CEO, Brandco Buchana Resource & Development Corp, Liberia, who is attending the programme, said “We do not have assets to machine, most of our fields work is done manually with tools such as cutlasses, regular hoes, diggers, axes, shovels etc. The cost of production is very high and there is low price for agricultural products in Liberia.” The biggest challenge is that it depends on food imports leading to serious issues related to food safety.

Edwin Nimley, Professor, University of Liberia, Moravia, is concerned about high cost of production compared to imported food resulting in absence of sustainable value chains. He is learning how technology, agglomeration and partnerships like in India will help in reconstructing agro economy in his home country.

Nora Bendu Kemokai, Rivercess County Agriculture Coordinator (CAC), Liberia, feels that India has a well-organised institutional set up for extension and training of the farmers. The level of mechanisation on farm and post harvest operations is extensive in India. Following various field visits to markets, farms, small scale industries, corporates, NGO and institutes like Central Food Technological Research Institute, Ms. Kemokai realised that the biggest requirement of Liberia is to have machines to help operations and save marketing costs. Ben Karzoyah Saye, District Agriculture officer, Liberia, informed that even the simple machines to seal the poly bags are not available. The bags carrying rice are closed by tying them with thread and needle. The unscientific packing leads to enormous losses and add to the marketing cost.

Ms. Kemokai says, “We have bought two machines for the paddy bags and plan to purchase additional two corn grinding machines for making feed and flour. The purchase of these four machines is to demonstrate them in Liberia and to have partnership with India for supplying these machines to the farmers of Liberia.”

Liberia imports poultry feed at a high cost, the corn grinding machines for making poultry feed will help in developing low cost feeds domestically.

The information and communication technology (ICT) has been supporting agriculture marketing and management in India. While going through successful examples of ICT application such as e-governance, Agmarknet, e-Choupal, Tata Kisan, IFFCO, the participants from the African nations learnt that ICT is going to be the biggest driver of change by delivering the customised market-led extension to the local farmers.

Roosevelt Carlos Reeves, IT officer, Liberia, feels encouraged and adequately informed to be able to develop an ICT system for delivering market information to the farmers of Liberia.

Ms. Kemokai and Mr. Saye have been inspired by the interactions with Tata Chemicals during training. They are taking two small portable printers to be carried to the field. They want to take pictures of soil sample, crop infestation on the spot and offer solution for crop protection just the way Tata Chemicals is doing for the farmers in India. They say: “We thank USAID and the Indian government for organising such an important agricultural training programmed to build the capacities of African countries.”

(The writer is Deputy Director, National Institute of Agricultural Marketing, Jaipur)