Liberia’s Vice President Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai has stressed the need for Liberian farmers to begin showing appreciation to donors by engaging in committed farming activities that will help alleviate the food insecurity situation in Liberia. Ambassador Boakai said while development partners were making strenuous efforts to see Liberia improve in several key areas, as evident by the numerous forms of support and aids that come into the country, it was the responsibility of the beneficiaries to deliver on what is expected of them. He said farmers should not always call for help from people, but engage in activities that will multiply the seeds given them to ensure the availability of more seeds for subsequent planting seasons.
Speaking when he officially launched the Economic Stabilization and Rapid Recovery Seed Intervention in Gbarnga, Bong County on Friday April 17, 2015, the Liberian Vice President called on the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) to go beyond just providing seeds to ensuring that the benefiting farmers are knowledgeable of the improved and certified seeds they are receiving.
Ambassador Boakai said there are several smallholder farmers that are trying on their own, but the MOA will need to develop more forms of training and other programs that work best in the interest of improving production, as well as ensuring follow up by extension agents.
He stressed the need to include Micro Loans in some of the agricultural programs, something he believes will greatly empower farmers and improve farming activities and production in Liberia. “Empowering our own people will go a long way as foreign aids will not always be around. Donors and supporters will have to go elsewhere to others that have bigger needs”, he said.
Ambassador Boakai who himself is a farmer thanked the World Bank, ECOWAS and other development partners for ensuring that the seeds were delivered on time, as timeliness is a major concern in agriculture. He said the seeds will bridge the gap created in the agricultural sector by the outbreak of the Ebola Virus in 2014.
The Liberian farmer also stressed the importance of the kinds of seeds that are brought into the country. “We might be bringing in seeds that will compete with what we have here and destroy them. The foundation seeds we are receiving we are receiving should be properly managed so we can have a reliable sources of seed production, ensuring that they are unadulterated and are proper seeds for planting”. He pointed out.
In remarks, the Senior Country Economist at the World Bank Monrovia office Timothy Bulman said the success story should be the raising of productivity of Liberian farmers to ensure that they can compete with the best in the world. He said before the Ebola outbreak, some key challenges existed in the agricultural sector. But it was now the challenge of the MOA and extension workers to work together and along with farmers to bring the best technologies and techniques to the farmers and raise their productivity to measure up to global competitors.
According to the World Bank official, the seeds are part of a chain of solutions to see farmers do better. The sharing of seeds form other WAAPP participating countries under ECOWAS also promotes regional transfer of technologies. The arrival of the certified and foundation seeds from across the region demonstrated what the regional project [WAAPP] has been trying to achieve; which is to make it easier to transfer technologies among West African countries. He also disclosed that the World Bank is supporting recovery projects through the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP) as well as direct financial contributions of a million dollars grant to the Ebola Fund.
Mr. Bulman congratulated the government of Liberia for passing into law and printing into hand bill the ECOWAS protocols on seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, something he said has reduced the legal barrels on movement of these items.
He said reducing the cost on transportation by fixing the roads, hopping farmers will operate as productively and efficiently as possible, and lowering the cost of production so that they can get a better price for their labor are examples of how the World Bank is supporting farmers in rural Liberia.
For his part, the Agriculture Committee Chairman at the Liberian House of Representatives Hon. Fofi Bimba called on the government of Liberia to create agricultural villages around the country to take what he called “the angry people to work and make them more productive to society”. Commenting on a recent incident in Paynesville City, Montserrado County that saw a police station being burned down by angry bike riders protesting the alleged killing of a colleague by a police officer, Representative Bimba said the incident could have been avoided if government had a program that incorporated people into vast agriculture activities somewhere in a remote county. He named to provision of attractive packages as stimulus such a plan.
Noting that this is an idea also shared by the Liberian Vice President, he said now was the time to engage our donors and partners to support us in creating farming villages in the various counties. He also stressed the importance of seeds to agricultural transformation and its distribution. “Maintaining the seeds will require a good and functional research and development drive, as well as a strong and functional multiplication program which will best be implemented on farm trials by the farmers themselves. He also called on the MOA to use the cooperatives available in the counties for the distribution of these seeds that have been made available.
The Lofa County Representative said he believes the Ministry of Agriculture is already on the right path of implementing the Post Ebola Economic Revitalization Program with the existence of several key projects of the Ministry’s Program Management Unit that are in the various counties. He called on the MOA to be the monitor and evaluator, while the farmers be the major players.
The Assistant Minister for Expenditure at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) who represented his office emphasized the involvement of the Liberian government in bringing the certified and foundation seeds into the country. He disclosed that a portion of the seeds was bought by the government of Liberia, despite all the challenges the Ebola outbreak delivered. Minister Alieu Faud Nyei thanked Africa Rice Center and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for facilitating the smooth transfer of the seeds to Liberia. He further admonished the partners, especially the World Bank to fast track its support in this intervention, to ensure that all of the seeds by the sector are actualized in a timely manner.
Minister Nyei noted a concern of the government was how to get the seeds to the end users in time. According to him, if the seeds didn’t get to the farmers in time for the planting season, the entire exercise will be a waste. “The MOA has to look for an efficient way to implement this, so that our efforts will not go in vain’, he said.
Dr. Ernest Asiedu who represented the regional coordinating body of WAAPP Projects CORAF/WECARD expressed his organization’s appreciation for the level of cooperation received from various ECOWAS countries and governments.
Dr. Asiedu recounted the several hours of planning and preparation it took to get to what he called the “end line of launching the seeds”. “ECOWAS has asked that we host a formal program of this kind in every country that we deliver these seeds, I am so happy that Liberia has set a good example”, he said.
Also speaking at the launching program in Bong County was the head of the Farmers Union Network (FUN) who called on Liberians to begin to see agriculture as a business. “Graduating from shovels and hoes farming to machines is a way to go”, she said. Representative Josephine George-Francis named the creation of loan schemes, good road networks among other things as important parts of the chain that we should create if we want eat and export Liberian produce.
The Lawmaker congratulated the government for ensuring that an act to make the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) an antonymous agency was followed through. According to her, we can talk about and get all we need, but if we do not have an independent research institute, we are wasting our time as it is very vital to agriculture. She said restoring CARI to get the relevant actors including scientists in the soonest possible time will greatly improve things and avoid farmers going to internet and other sources for solutions to difficulties faced on their farms.