The end of Liberia’s civil crises saw an increase in internal migration that is, however, still on an upward trend. On a daily basis many people board trucks and buses from their rural communities with hopes of better opportunities in Monrovia or nearby urban cities.
Speaking last year at the World Food Celebration’s “Change the Future of Migration, Invest in Food Security and Rural Development” program, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Representative in Liberia, Marc T. Abdala, said that rural poverty, food insecurity, lack of employment and income generating opportunities, inequality, and limited access to social protection, climate change and depletion of natural resources due to environmental degradation are some driving factors of rural migration.
The one day celebration held at the Ministry of Agriculture Project Management Unit in Fendell, lower Careysburg was characterized by stakeholder dialogue, press briefing, exhibition of food products made in Liberia and display of small farming machineries.
Moreover, the large population of urban cities do not only add up on the responsibilities of family members or friends who host them, they also impact urban agriculture operations, as construction of homes, business centers, warehouses and offices are being witnessed on all forms of land including lowland or swampland.
During the dry season most urban farmers shift their production to lowland or swampland for more production space. The lowland or swampland is also attractive to farmers during the dry season because of its fertility status; however, current utilization of swampland by farmers is becoming tenser, as construction work is increasing in lowland or swampland areas.
The chairman of Liberia Vegetable Sellers Association, Sumo Mulbah, attributed the decrease in urban vegetable production to the “untimely” request from urban land owners, who he said prefer leasing their land for construction purposes instead of farming purposes.
He added that construction of structures in lowland areas is negatively impacting the role of middlemen who pre-finance urban farmers’ production activities.
“Recently, a farmer that we were sponsoring around the Barnersville Estate had to stop production because the land owner told him that he was ready to build on the land. For us, that was a loss; the farmer left the field and the money we invested was never realized,” he said.
Responding to the importance of urban produce on the local market, the operations officer of the association, Kollie Zayzay, said trade with urban farmers helps in terms of good quality and suitable income generation.
“Peri and urban farmers help us get fresh produce on the market at any time because they are close to the market; anytime that they harvest we are able to reach for the produce and sell the same day. Unlike the peri-urban farmers, the rural farmers produce huge quantities, but before the goods reach us, almost everything has spoiled and in that case, we don’t realize anything,” said Zayzay.
The Liberia Vegetable Sellers Association is an association that pre-buy and pre-finance farmers that are producing indigenous and exotic vegetables, including cabbage, lettuce, cucumber among others.
Meanwhile, another urban vegetable production group in Mount Barclay, on the Kakata Highway, has expressed interest in government owned and disposal lands.
Mawab Vegetable Group in Mount Barclay, a suburb of Paynesville, is calling on the newly-elected government to lease state owned land to peri-urban farmers.
The chairman of the group, Alexander Monnah, said leasing of state owned land would help farmers in and around urban cities increase urban food production and also improve their livelihoods.
“Land for farming purposes is really difficult to get. We’ve been appealing to the outgoing government to talk to city corporations, commissions in various settlements to provide land to farmers that are willing to work, but our appeal was not heard. So this time, we are also appealing to the president-elect, Senator George Weah, to consider leasing government land to farmers,” said Monnah
In his first interview after he was declared winner of the runoff presidential election, Ambassador George M. Weah disclosed his desire to see local agricultural produce on the shelves of foreign owned businesses and countries.
The President-elect also disclosed that his elected leadership would repair worn out infrastructure: a development strategy most consider ideal to kick start his regime. But the export of “Made in Liberia” agricultural products could mean improving the land laws of the state and the invention of new agricultural schemes that will lift the country’s agricultural products to a recognizable status on the global market.