Vast Land, Yet Immense Hunger

Mr. Stephen Matthews, Coordinator for communal farming.jpg

Bong, Nimba and Lofa Counties were once considered the “bread baskets” of Liberia prior to the outburst of the civil crises that lasted for 14-long years.

But, since the cessation (end) of hostilities more than 10 years now, that description of “bread baskets” has turned, and as the result, there are reports of hunger everywhere, thus causing production of food to overwhelm (over power) the few farmers in those counties.

In 2008, the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo Information Services (LISGIS) conducted the population and housing census and it was reported that the country has the inhabitants of 3.5 million persons.

Information gathered by our Bong County Correspondent suggests that 89 percent of this population heavily relies on subsistence farming for survival, 3 percent on rubber farm, 2 percent survives on life skills and 6 percent depends on white-collar jobs for livelihood.

With this small population and huge natural resources, vast majority of the people are finding it extremely difficult to put foods on their tables or pay their children school fees.

For many years, Liberia, with all the vast a ‘wasted land’, has had an entrenched culture of importing rice, its staple food, for its citizens.

The Daily Observer sampled the views of the ordinary citizens including local farmers, students and stakeholders on the rapid decline of food production in Bong County.

Mr. Stephen Matthews: The Agriculture Commissioner on Communal Farming for Bong County lamented the huge migration of people from the rural communities to the urban areas saying that it is another contributing factor to the increase of hunger in the county.

“You see most of our people leave the villages to come in the city in search for opportunity such as market or job and as such they are no longer involved with farming activities” Mr. Matthews emphasized.

“This migration from the villages to the main towns and cities is affecting the agriculture sector in the county,” he added.

Another citizen,  Mr. Joseph Urey, Administrative Assistant to Bong County Supt.Mr. Joseph M. Urey (pictured left), Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent of Bong County, Madam Selena Polson Mappy, said food production has considerably declined in the county due to the artisanal mining companies’ operations the  in the county.

“If you go in these small, small mining areas, you will notice that the locals, who should be on their farms and farming, are deeply involved in the mining activities than farming,” Mr. Urey stressed.

The Bong county official indicated with the proliferation of mining activities in the county, many of the farmers are intensely involved with mining as compared to farming as the result the county is not producing the needed food as compared to the past years.

Mr. Urey furthered that as the result of more people being involved with the gold mining, it is adversely affecting the agriculture sector, adding that the evidence is the acute disappearance of typical Liberian rice on the local market in the county and yea the country at large.

The County Agriculture Coordinator for Bong (CAC), Mrs. Monica Honoree, said another thing which has dropped food production is that another group of the rural populations has turned their attention to rubber planting, rather than growing food crops.

“If people were involved with the cultivation of rice as they are engaged with the growing of rubber, no one would complain of decline in food production” Mrs. Honoree emphasized.

Also speaking to this paper, the Regional Coordinator of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Mr. George Johnson, lamented that people are hungry in the county due to government’s failure to provide loan to potential farmers to maintain their farms.

Mr. Johnson said past governments had given farmers loans from the Agricultural Cooperative Development Bank (ACDB) as a means of sustaining their farms and to buy themselves farming implements.

The Agricultural Cooperative and Development Bank was closed down as the result of the Liberian civil war and it is yet to reopen to the public.

Commenting also old man Flomo Tehtor of Kpelekpala blamed the decline in food production in the county due to government inability to revitalize the Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC), an agency of government that used to buy produce from the farmers such as coffee and cocoa.

“The production of cocoa and coffee has dropped because there is no where we can sell our produce. If you dry your coffee or cocoa, you either take it to neighboring countries to sell or leave to the mercy of bugs or insects to feed on it,” Old man Tehtor said.

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