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[ACCRA] Liberia's cocoa industry, destroyed by its recent civil war, could be revitalised by a collaboration with Ghana, one of the world's major cocoa producers.

Representatives from both countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) earlier this month (4 March), with the aim of boosting each other's agricultural research activities. The Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana and Liberia's Central Agricultural Research Institute will set up reciprocal arrangements for visiting scientists and implement mutually agreed projects.

"Liberia used to produce cocoa — it was a member of the old West Africa Cocoa Research Institute," Yaw Adu-Ampomah, deputy chief executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board — which facilitated the MoU with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture's Sustainable Tree Crops Program (STCP) — told SciDev.Net.

Adu-Ampomah said that the United States, through the STCP, is keen to help Liberia but the country lacks cocoa-producing capacity — which is where Ghana comes in.

Ghana will provide expertise to Liberian farmers on planting crops in the most effective way. "We will send some technicians to Liberia, and Liberia will send some to Ghana to receive training in nursery activities and providing agricultural services," he said.

Adu-Ampomah added that the United States will partly fund seedling production, transport of materials to Liberia, access to credit facilities to enable planting, and costs of technical intervention. The Liberian government is funding its farmers — mostly technicians — and technology transfer.

The first step will involve gathering together Liberia's farmers, producing the seedlings and harvesting and processing them into a form that can be flown to Liberia and transported to the farmers.

The collaboration, Adu-Ampomah said, is driven by the aims of the Economic Community of West African States, which seeks to promote economic integration within West Africa.

Although the collaboration is primarily focusing on cocoa, it can involve other important crops, he added.

"Liberia has a slight advantage in coffee production, which Ghana can learn from. It also has a diverse range of coffee varieties and Ghana could obtain some seeds from Liberia to revitalise its coffee industry."

Derrick Mills, programme officer at the Ghana Agricultural Associations Business and Information Centre, said that the collaboration will improve the agricultural sectors of both countries through technology transfer.

"The capacity building of the research institutions will be enhanced and Ghana will also be able rejuvenate its coffee industry. Liberian and Ghanaian farmers will also be able to share knowledge and so improve productivity," he said.