LIBERIA — The National Standards Laboratory (NSTL) of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry has held a one-day inception meeting and workshop of the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) activities, aimed at enhancing the competitiveness and regional integration of Liberia’s cassava sector through a value chain approach focusing on sustained production, value addition, entrepreneurship, and sustainable markets.

The workshop is part of the Cassava Transformation Project (CASTRAP) which is funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by CERATH Development Organization with Rural Integrated Centre for Community Empowerment, Conservation Alliance Liberia, and Center for Enterprise Development.

The EU-funded project is Liberia’s national component of the West Africa Competitiveness Programme (WACOMP) launched on the 28th of October 2021.

CASTRAP is currently being implemented in the South East of Liberia in the five counties of Grand Kru, Grand Gedeh, Maryland, Sinoe, and River Gee.

Thomas Gobah, Deputy Commerce Minister for Industry, on behalf of his boss Minister Marine Diggs, lauded the EU and other development partners for their continued support to Liberia.

He described the meeting as a clear manifestation and determination of the government through the Commerce Ministry along with its development partners to improve the living condition of ordinary Liberians, especially the farmers through sustainable and inclusive development programs like the CASTRAP project.

He said the inception meeting of the NQI is very vibrant to ensure key stakeholders remain engaged in a very meaningful way in the implementation of all these activities.

“Therefore, I wish to also applaud and encourage everyone to give their support and commitment to participate to make this national endeavor a success,” Gobah said.

According to him, the cultural and displayable attitude of said project is that it will support and strengthen viable institutions whose services have a significant impact on the entire project.

“The selection of the services of the NQI confirmed that every sector of the development spectrum of this country must be prioritized and properly mainstream if development must be holistic and sustainable,” he said.

CASTRAP to address gaps in the NQI

The Deputy Commerce Minister told participants that over the years, the NQI has been one of the sectors left behind with little awareness of its importance to national development, yet the issues of standard, technical, regulations, affirmative assessment and accreditation remain key components of industry development and trade.

In addition, he said the CASTRAP project will assist and strengthen the capacity of the National Standards Laboratory and address gaps in the NQI when it comes to policy, legal institutional, and capacity framework.

Gobah also noted that with this project, the National Standards Laboratory infrastructure and services will be standardized and internationally accredited to depth and certified cassava-based products like gari (farina), fufu and cassava flowers to be traded in local and international markets.

The project, he said, intends to provide support for the revision of the National Quality Policy, the key policy document for the NQI, as well as create awareness among lawmakers on the passage of the National Standard Acts of 2017, which is required for the setting up of Liberia’s Standard Authority (LSA).

These, he said, are all laudable and interventions needed to ensure that this is well institutionalized in line with international requirements.

In a remark, the European Union Delegation Representative, Madam Geertrui Lovwagie, told the participants that the project is a four years initiative that is being supported by the EU regional West Africa Competitiveness Program.

The EU Representative also put the cost of the CASTRAP project at US$6 million, according to Front Page Africa.

She said the project is also intended to enhance the financial sustainability and commercial viability of the value chain as well as strengthen policies and other incentives that will stimulate commercialization in the cassava sector of Liberia.

Madam Lovwagie further said that the project will ensure that food safety is looked at critically because food safety is paramount to them under the project.

“Food safety matters to us from two perspectives, first, we will like to see safe food on Liberia’s domestic market. We will also be pleased to see Liberia exporting food to the European Union markets and we will rarely be glad that Liberia produces food and products into the EU markets when they are not safe,” she said.

The National Standards Laboratory (NSTL) of Liberia was set up in 2011 with the financial support of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the European Union to curtail the proliferation of substandard goods on the Liberian market.

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