‘Economic Situation Appalling’

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Some residents of the south-eastern region of Liberia, particularly those residing in Grand Gedeh, River-Gee and Mary Land Counties, have disclosed that there is immense economic stagnation facing them in that part of the country.

The south-eastern residents made the disclosure to the Daily Observer newspaper recently in interviews in their respective counties.

According to them, the economy of the south-east comprises mainly of agriculture, but not much has been done over the years to create all of the necessary opportunities needed for the citizens to reduce poverty.

Many of the people who this paper spoke with are farmers. They complained of inadequate support received toward food production in their various counties, saying the implementation of agricultural projects have had less impact.

It can be recalled that in 2005, the Liberian Government made agriculture the center of its poverty reduction strategy. However, it is observed that after a decade of sustained peace in the country many south-easterners still live in thatch houses and are finding it difficult to afford enough for meals on a daily basis.

Mr. Bennie Brown is the president of the Mary Land County farmers’ cooperative society. He stressed the need for more attention toward the implementation of agriculture projects in the South-east to improve the lives of its citizens.

He further disclosed that rubber farmers in Maryland County have recently become vulnerable resulting from the pull out of the Firestone Rubber Company.

He explained that due to Firestone’s role as the sole buyer of rubber in the country, farmers in Maryland no longer have the opportunity to trade their produce now that they have pulled out.

“Our local economy depends on the production and trade of rubber. But since last year in October, Firestone pulled out of this place, and as such the production of rubber has therefore declined,” Mr. Brown said.

He said that because of the situation, the purchasing power of Marylanders— mainly farmers— has decreased.

“The citizens are no longer able to get money to buy basic food commodities, gasoline and other things. This poses a serious economic problem in the county. In fact, right now many of the farmers have laid down their tools,” he lamented.

He said there is a need that government prevails on Firestone to return to the market and buy the product from farmers.

Also speaking was the Commissioner for Pleebo Sodoken district in Mary land County, Aloysius Hne, mentioned that the scarcity of farmland in his district is a serious issue.

He disclosed that about 30,000 hectares of land is expected to be occupied by the Cavalla Rubber Corporation (CRC) for the production of rubber.

“This,” Commissioner Hne said, “would leave subsistence farmers with less land for food production in Pleebo district.”

According to him, in spite of the presence of the Mary Land Oil Palm Company and the CRC, many of the citizens are still unemployed.

He mentioned that “job opportunities are lacking for many in Mary Land County. This situation is making lives very difficult.”

Commissioner Hne added that there is a poor health delivery system in his district.

“Many times patients seeking treatment at the government clinic in Pleebo are told by the doctors that drugs are not available,” he said.

For his part, Solomon Choloply, the principal of the Jolowroken Elementary School in River-Gee County said the rate of the United States dollars poses a serious problem for the local people.

He said that salaries for teachers in the South-east cannot match the price of goods in United States dollars.

“The price of basic commodities on the market is determined by the U. S dollar, and as such, our incomes for teaching cannot purchase these goods,” he explained.

He said there is a need for government to do its best and solve the dual currency issue in the country.

“We want a single currency for Liberia as it would enable the poor in rural areas to improve,” he concluded.

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