Liberia: CHAP Wants EPA Enforce Law On Wetlands Protection

Bishop Robert Bimba, CHAP Executive Director

— Construction and garbage dumping hurt food production potential in wetlands

The Executive Director of the Community of Hope Agriculture Project (CHAP), Bishop Robert Bimba, is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce the law on the protection of wetlands.

Bimba said wetlands or swamplands in the country are constantly being faced with the issue of construction which destroys the ecosystem.

The Environmental Protection Management law of Liberia states that no person in relation to the protection of wetland shall carry out any form of constructions.

But it is observed that individuals are still using the wetlands or swamps to construct houses, which is a complete violation of the Environmental Protection Management law of Liberia.

Bimba said that construction in the wetlands also undermines food security improvement efforts.

According to him, the wetlands can be used for agriculture purposes to raise additional incomes for community dwellers in urban areas.

Bimba’s concern is prompted by the continuous encroachment by some unscrupulous individuals on projects like the Zubah Town swamp rice project located in Paynesville.

The Zubah Town rice project covers 12.5 hectares (32 acres) of lowland in the community.

Experts have said that if such a lowland rice project is fully supported by the government it has the potential to produce several metric tons of rice for Paynesville and its environs.

CHAP aims to promote urban and peri urban agriculture; which was launched in Liberia in 2003 to create jobs for women and youth. 

Bimba mentioned that many people are aware of the law that governs the protection of wetlands, but they choose to continue to violate it. 

He wants the EPA to enforce the laws so as to protect the rice project of the community.

The CHAP Executive Director also wants the involvement of the Paynesville City Corporation (PCC) to sensitize the residents on garbage control around the vicinity of the project.

He complained about residents using the swamp to dispose of their waste materials.

According to him, the situation is affecting the yield of the swamp rice project. 

“We can’t have people continue to violate the law governing the protection of wetlands. The EPA and other land related agencies need to enforce the law,” Bimba said.

At the same time, the CHAP Executive Director said the Zubah Town rice project is expected to increase the production of rice this year to supply the market.

According to him, with support from the Jubilee Justice Foundation based in the United States of America, his organization is currently working to develop the entire swampland, using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method and other technologies.

SRI is a farming methodology that aims to increase the yield of rice, while using fewer resources and reducing environmental impacts.

Liberia is among several countries in West Africa using the SRI method to increase the production of rice. 

Bimba said his organization intends to use the Zubah Town rice project to grow more rice for the communities.

Rice is Liberia’s main staple, but the country is yet to meet domestic supply to feed its citizens. Liberia still spends close to US$200 million every year for rice importation.

“The goal of the rice project is to ensure the availability of local rice for communities. The rice, when harvested, will be sold right here in Paynesville at a price affordable for the residents,” he explained to this reporter recently.

The CHAP Executive Director revealed that several residents from the various communities are currently using the Zubah Town rice project to earn additional incomes.

“Several women come here every day for daily hire jobs. We also allow them to own plots during the dry season to grow fresh and healthy vegetables for the market,” he explained.

According to him, the project is also a part of the RICOWAS Liberia program.

RICOWAS Liberia is a regional rice project that was launched last year in the country to help scale up rice production. 

Bimba said that the program is in six counties helping the farmers to increase production.

Meanwhile, the CHAP Executive Director, who is also the head of RICOWAS Liberia, has disclosed that his organization is expected to benefit from assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture’s partners’ projects grant program.

He said the grant, when disbursed, is going to provide machineries, additional processing equipment and funding to assist more farmers.

“We are going to upgrade processing and purchase a truck to transport paddy rice, as well as procure a power tiller and tractor,” he disclosed.

“Since the establishment of this project this is going to be the first time that we have ever gotten such an assistance. We will use the assistance to employ more women and young people from the various communities,” he explained.

Bimba has disclosed plans to get involved in developing lowlands in other communities within Monrovia and its surroundings.