Vietnamese experts to help with rice cultivation in Liberia

July 20, 2009
Vietnam’s leading rice expert Vo Tong Xuan (2, R) visits a farm in Nigeria that is growing Vietnamese rice using techniques developed in the Mekong Delta

The University of Liberia has requested the assistance of Vietnamese experts in rice cultivation to help African farmers adopt new techniques at a faster pace and on a larger scale.

Emmet Dennis, the university president, said such cooperation would be the first in Africa and surely bring success to the farmers.

He was speaking during a meeting Wednesday with a team of Vietnamese experts led by the country’s leading rice expert Vo Tong Xuan, which was also attended by Liberian Senior Senator John A. Ballout and Borkai Sirleaf, Acting Agriculture Minister.

The local officials and Vietnamese experts also visited the Omega farm the same day, where a Vietnamese farmer has helped improve the yield of rice paddies in the recent season.

Earlier, Ballout had met with Xuan to discuss expediting the implementation of Vietnamese rice cultivation methods in Liberia to ensure faster agricultural development in the country.

The senator said international organizations had expended much effort and money to help African countries but have not proven very effective in helping the people here escape poverty and hunger.

He hoped that the practical guidance and assistance provided by Vietnamese experts would make a difference in the fight against hunger and poverty.

Xuan shared with the Liberian leaders experience and insights that helped Vietnam’s Mekong Delta become the nation’s rice granary and the country a leading rice exporter in the world.

Students of Can Tho University in Vietnam had contributed significantly to the success by directly facilitating technology transfer to farmers, he said.

“Many researches done by the students were conducted in the delta to improve rice varieties and techniques,” Xuan said.

He added the government polices to encourage agriculture was a key element in Vietnam’s success as a rice producer, including improving irrigating systems and the skills of plant protection agencies.

Xuan, who was formerly principal of the An Giang University in the Mekong Delta, last year helped send dozens of farmers to Sierra Leone to help farmers learn Vietnamese rice cultivation techniques, remarkably improving yield on local farms.

Bumper crops

The Omega farm in Liberia that Xuan visited is being tended by Vietnamese farmer Cao Van Do from Tra Vinh Province in the Mekong Delta.

Located some 30 kilometers from the Liberian capital of Monrovia, the farm has developed three rice varieties originating in Vietnam – OM4900, OM5199 and OM3536 – since early March this year.

Xuan said OM3536 had been harvested recently with a yield of 4.26 tons per hectare, a notably high level here.

Cultivation of this rice variety had taken two weeks longer in Vietnam, but still a month shorter than other varieties in Liberia, he said.

Do said he had also introduced the cultivation techniques to six local farmers on the three-hectare farm.

He said the yield was a great success because the soil at Omega was partially sandy, which made irrigation more difficult.

Xuan estimated that the other two varieties introduced at Omega would also produce a yield of more than four tons of unhusked rice per hectare.

The Vietnamese rice expert also visited Nigeria during his visit to African countries last week to promote assistance in rice cultivation.

While visiting farms developed under cooperation between the state and VAADCO Group that was using Vietnamese rice varieties and techniques, he said a trial season at Enugu State is set to offer rich yields.

VAADCO is an integrated Commercial-Mechanized-Sustainable agriculture business group based and operating in Vietnam, Nigeria, United Kingdom and Uganda.

“State and local officials were happy to see the rice paddies developing very well,” he said. “The farmers said they had never seen such a healthy and strong variety of rice.”

The fields, cultivated by two Vietnamese agronomists, were a trial step before the Enugu administration decided to expand cultivation on 10,000 hectares of rice here.

Reported by Thanh Nien staff

*This story was written based on a firsthand account by Professor Vo Tong Xuan

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