The deadly Ebola Disease virus (EVD), which has killed nearly 2,288 people in three West African countries in only six months, is affecting Liberia’s agricultural sector by hindering food production in the affected counties.
Due to strict measures taken by the government of Liberia to quarantine counties affected as a way to contain the virus, Liberian farmers find it difficult to produce and sell to the local markets. In Lofa, one of the counties badly hit, it is reported that farmers in some villages have abandoned their farms altogether to flee to other parts of Liberia in attempts to avoid contracting the virus.
Ebola has also caused an increase in the price of some food commodities.
Lofa, known as Liberia’s leading breadbasket, was the first county to record Ebola cases. Now, rice farmers face challenges in maintaining rice fields and don’t have enough manpower to transplant, care for and harvest rice. Every year, Lofa farmers produce approximately 560 tons of Liberia’s main staple rice.
Mohammed Kamara, a farmer in Lofa, told the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview that the EVD crisis is posing serious economic hardship for the citizens as farmers cannot travel as before to sell their produce.
He said the virus had destroyed the lives of many farmers and caused displacement in three districts, reducing work force in the agriculture sector of Lofa.
Farmer Kamara stressed the need for government and its partners to think about the challenges of EVD in his county.
“We want the government to understand that farmers will need more help to enable them to restart life after the crisis,” he mentioned.
Alexander Moah, a vegetable farmer in a Monrovia suburb, said that the Ebola had affected market for vegetable farmers. He said the big buyers of vegetable crops in Liberia are the expatriates who are leaving the country due to the outbreak of the virus.
Meanwhile, Liberia’s Vice president, Joseph Nyumah Boakai, told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) recently that there is an urgent need to address the challenges of food production in Liberia. Mr. Boakai said that government will need to increase support for farmers in terms of increasing processing facilities for marketing and providing inputs for farmers.
Limited processing services represents a major constraint for Liberia’s local food industry.
Liberia, an already food-insecure nation of 4 million people, continues to recover from a 14-year civil war that destroyed the agriculture sector. The government of Liberia and its international partners are making some efforts to scale up food production, mainly rice and cassava, but the Ebola outbreak will stall the process and perhaps leave Liberians more hungry than before.