Focus on the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI)
Thursday, 14th August 2008

Gradually but surely, the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI), which was amongst institutions hardest hit by the protracted civil conflict which engulfed Liberia for fourteen years is on the path of recovery to its pre-war status.

 

CARI is the only Liberian Government owned and operated research entity on agricultural matters. It is located in central Liberia some 120 miles northeast of Monrovia, the national capital.

 

The institute served as the base for three successive warring factions; and home to over 10,000 displaced persons for nearly five years.  After the cessation of the civil crisis, CARI became and remained the base to one of UNMIL sector commands. The research institute is ideally situated within 3km of two communities namely, Suakoko and Sergeant Kollie Town (SKT) and surrounded by over 6,000 ex-combatants.

 

This could be one of the underlying factors why CARIís infrastructure has always been looted several times during the civil crisis, today, its infrastructure, assets and research fields continue to be the target of massive looting.

 

The occupation of CARI by UNMIL (95% of usable structures) necessitates that the current administration of the institute must adopt non-conventional, imaginative and improvised means of running the institute.

 

The administration of the institute has prepared several documents; one of which is the Draft Strategic Plan for the Rehabilitation of CARI; which is awaiting discussion, finalization and adoption while the other proposals for setting-up of a governance structure, representing all stakeholders, have been tabled for discussion and adoption as well.

 

A budgetary allocation of US$704,000 was given to CARI for the period 1st July 2007 to 30th June 2008.

 

Key Activities

Following the cessation of hostilities, thousands of displaced persons and refugees returned both to the country as well as to their respective communities around the country. This massive movement exerted enormous pressure on government for the provision of planting materials, tools and other agricultural inputs for the farming populations.

 

This challenge provided an imperative entry point for beginning CARIís research activities Ė provision of improved planting materials for farmers, hence, the following activities skewed to crop improvement.

Rice Improvement Program

In early 2006, 10 NERICA varieties were introduced from the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA) along with 2 local varieties at CARI for evaluation. This evaluation exercise was intensified to include 34 additional NERICA lines. All the new varieties are now in preliminary screening trials while 5 of the earlier lines (NERICA 1, 4, 7, 8, and FK19), after two years of testing, have been advanced to on-station multiplication for production of foundation seed.

 

It was disclosed in a recent Quarterly Report that following multi-locational testing and on-farm evaluation of these materials, and the setting up of an official seed release procedure, these materials can be released to farmers by the Liberian Government.

 

A target has been set for the production of 50 tons of foundation seed at CARI in 2008. To this end, 12.5 hectares of upland and 3.4 hectares of lowland rice have already been planted at CARI. It is expected that 15 hectares of upland rice will be planted by the end of this season along with two cycles each of 3.4 hectares of lowland rice. Seed production from the two ecologies is expected to exceed the 50 tons targeted.

 

Cassava Improvement Program

In 2006, 273 genotypes of cassava were introduced at CARI from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) for evaluation as part of 3 different IITA global cassava trials. The materials are of two categories: food quality and industrials. Preliminary results from the 2006 trials led to the selection of 48 genotypes that were advanced for the 2007 trials.

 

Results of the 2007 trials confirmed the 2006 data and have led to the selection of 8 genotypes for eventual release when the certification, and release procedure are established.

 

The eight selected genotypes have been advanced for multi-locational trials and multiplication at CARI, in Lofa and Nimba Counties for future distribution to farmers and institutions. Already, 2.5 hectares at CARI, 1.7 hectares at Lofa and 1.2 hectares in Nimba have been planted for multiplication of the 8 selected varieties. Locations are being sought in other counties for further multiplication of these genotypes.

 

Yam Improvement Program

Sixty-six varieties of yams in the form of micro-tubers were introduced at CARI from IITA in 2007. The result of that has allowed the planting of 1.7 hectares comprising over 22,000 hills of yams this planting season.

 

These varieties are being evaluated during this planting season for trials at multi-locations and in farmersí fields during the next season. Yams, unlike rice cassava, are new at CARI, thus work is targeted at the identification of adaptable materials that can quickly be multiplied for distribution to farmers. The release procedures for yams, as in the case of rice and cassava will have to be defined and passed into law.

 

Maize, Beans and Other Crops

In 2007, 20 varieties of open pollinated maize, 36 varieties of beans and 6 varieties of soybeans were introduced at CARI from IITA for screening and evaluation. Preliminary results are encouraging. All the materials are now being tested in various agronomic trials this season. The objective of these is to identify varieties of these crops that are adapted to the local condition for their eventual multiplication and release to farmers. A release procedure for these crops will also be set up by Government.

 

Rehabilitation of Infrastructure

With UNMIL occupying 95% of CARIís facilities, renovation of selected buildings were deemed a priority to get the institute functional from its location. In this regard, 5 residential units and the old CARI guest house were renovated. The latter is being used as temporary office. This renovation work has facilitated running CARI operations from Suakoko since September 2007. A temporary shed has been erected for storage of equipment and as a maintenance workshop. One dilapidated building was repaired and is being used for storage of materials and supplies, albeit its inadequacy.



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