Because of the outbreak of Ebola, which has affected every sector of the Liberian economy, the World Bank has disclosed a recovery plan for the nation’s agriculture sector.
Dr. Jim Yong Kim, World Bank Group President, made the disclosure Tuesday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during a one-day visit with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and government officials.
“We don’t need to wait until the Ebola epidemic is completely eradicated to start working on an economic plan. We will help farmers to recover from the Ebola crisis so that Liberia will not go through food shortage.”
Access to quality health care delivery and improving selected infrastructures are also critical areas that the World Bank economic recovery plan seeks to consider.
Though Liberia is striving to recover from 14 years of civil crisis, which left every sector, including its agriculture sector completely destroyed, the Ebola crisis is reported to have carried the sector to “square one,” where farmers were forced to abandon farms and fled to other parts of Liberia because of fear to not contract the virus.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that food is increasingly getting short in the country. Fields in some regions have been abandoned because of the people working on those fields believe that the virus is being spread by them. They also believe that the disease can be spread through their irrigated water.
With the recent pronouncement made by the World Bank Group President to assist the country’s agriculture sector, Liberian farmers have begun expressing gratitude to the Bank.
They are of the conviction that such intervention will bring a great relief to them, especially those in Ebola-affected communities.
While this seems a good announcement, farmers have complained about the “limited allotment” in the national budget for agriculture. It is something they want their government to consider, if the country will become food self-sufficient.
Liberia’s agriculture budget is at 2.4 percent with most funding from external sources. When African leaders met in Maputo 10 years ago, they came up with a declaration known as the Maputo Declaration. It calls for African nations to set aside at least 10 percent of their national budget for agriculture, annually.
“The government needs to put more money in to agriculture to improve food security and reduce poverty in the lives of subsistence farmers. We are so thankful to the international community for its continuous assistance toward food security,” said Nathaniel Kpaka, a local farmer in Foya District, Lofa County.
Lofa is one of the counties seriously hit by the Ebola virus. It is hope that with some level of improvement in the reduction of the virus, farmers are demonstrating courage in returning homes to engage in various agricultural projects.