The man Joseph Marzar, 53, affectionately known as “Zigzag Marzar”, one of the notorious rebel commanders during the civil war in Liberia, believes that “investing in agriculture can reduce poverty in the lives of a person.”
As a lead goat farmer in Gbearlay-geh District, Nimba County, Zigzag Marzar got hands-on training in agriculture when serving as former soldier of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) in 1978. It is no mistake that today he heads a group of goat farmers in his home town, Slor Zenlay.
According to him, in 1989 when the civil war started in Liberia, he joined Charles Taylor and his rebels — the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) — because of fear that the rebels could come to kill him when they get to know that he was a serviceman who resided in the area prior to the outbreak of the war.
However, after the war, he chose not to work for government, but to begin his own agriculture project.
“I believe that agriculture has liberated me from rebel general to a self-employed citizen. I am no longer interested in doing a government job, but to work in tilling the soil,” he said in a very calm voice, during an exclusive interviewed on his farm a forth night ago.
When donor partners working in the agriculture sector, learnt that a former soldier had reintegrated in Gbeaelay-Geh District and was farming, they became overwhelmed with joy and decided to lend him a supports.
Despite Zigzag’s past record, especially his ruthless activities, partners recognized his potential in farming and decided to teach him to become a partner to their projects.
In 2013 partnership began with 30 goat farmers in Gborplay, a Liberian Town within a stone throw of the Ivorian border in the same Gbearlay-Geh District and supports them in improved goat husbandry techniques for income generation.
But before the intervention, some of the goats raised by the farmers were not properly reared as they were left unattended to and exposed to all kinds of animal diseases and dangers.
As part of the project support to the farming, the Gborplay goat farmers received 23 bundles of wire to fence the goat farm. Three goat shelters including a kidding house, quarantine shelter and shelter for marketable goats have been constructed much to the delight of the farmers.
Mr. Marzar had 14 goats but it has now increased to 36. He is hopeful that he will soon start to market the animals.
Born 1961 in Gbearlay-Geh District, Joseph Marzar did not complete high school when he got married and started having children. However, while serving as a former AFL soldier, he got hands on skill in agriculture, mainly animal husbandry, which has made him one of the county’s leading animal farmers.
Though a former rebel general during the civil crisis, Marzar, maintained that he protected the lives of civilians during the crisis, which, according to him, made reintegration easier.
During the Liberian civil war, most unarmed civilians were harassed and molested by soldiers. Because of this behavior, reintegration of some of the fighters was very difficult.
In 2006, Marzar was called to The Hague to testify in the trial of former Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor, accused of 11 counts war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Taylor is now guilty of the crimes where he is serving a 50-year jail sentence in the UK.
Upon his returned from The Hague, it became a great challenge for Marzar, when it comes to settling with his family in Liberia. He felt that his life was in danger and was advised by some friends to seek asylum in a foreign country of his choice with his family. But because of his firm interest in agriculture, the former warrior resolved to go back to his home town in Nimba to engage in farming.
The former fighter is not only a livestock farmer, but is also engaged in the growing of oil palm and rubber. With meagre resources acquired from his agriculture project, he has planted two acres of rubber and one acre of oil palm.
“My rubber is now producing latex every day which gives me one ton monthly at the cost of at least US$840. I am using this money to expand the farms.
Meanwhile, Zigzag Marzar has called on all other ex-combatants to see the soil as a bank for investment as according to him, it has so many good things beneath it for use by those who are prepared to cultivate it.