Amid the negative impacts of COVID-19 on agriculture production globally, some Liberian farmers, mainly those engaged into food crops production, recently said that their farming activities are being seriously affected and therefore they are appealing to the government to assist them in order to mitigate the impact of the virus.
The farmers, based in Margibi County, said that from the onset of the pandemic, health protocols such as social distancing and travel restrictions hindered them from engaging in productive farming activities in their respective farming communities, thereby limiting their income generation.
The farmers spoke to the Daily Observer last Wednesday, in Kakata City, Margibi County, during a COVID-19 awareness exercise, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Liberia, through its “Linking Research with Extension” project sponsored by the European Union.
Liberia’s first case of the coronavirus was announced in March 2020, causing the government to derive a set of stringent measures to curtail further spread. Margibi County, being adjacent the epicenter, Montserrado County, was one of those counties in the country that reported a high rate of infection.
According to the farmers, they could not expand their farms due to restrictions against working in groups. In Liberia, during every farming season, traditional farmers have a kind of way they work, called the “KU” farming system, which enables farmers to work in groups to cultivate a large portion of land.
Ezekiah Ballah, the Managing Partner of Who-Gasanda Inc, said that since the outbreak, it was the first time that they were receiving awareness on the effects of the virus. According to him, the virus has seriously affected the activities of farmers in the county. Ballah said that in order for farmers to mitigate the effects of the virus, there is a need for the government to assist farmers with loans.
“The awareness provided today is very much useful as we lacked the materials to prevent the virus,” Ballah said.
“We had a lot of challenges during the time of the virus as many of our products could not be sold. Production has been low because farmers were not able to work in groups. Bulk of our poultry products were not being sold due to the travel restrictions. There are limitations in our workflow and income generation has also been affected,” he added.
Ballah recommended that the awareness be carried out to other counties where the farmers are affected. Esther Clerke, of the ECOWAS Children of Handicapped, said that farmers need to take COVID 19 awareness seriously while making their farms.
“We are thankful to FAO for creating awareness about the virus. The virus situation has truly affected our production due to measures taken by the government,” she said. “We have been on the fields doing awareness about the virus with the farmers in the communities as well.”
Meanwhile, Oliver Boye Teekpeh, Plant Pathologist at the Ministry of Agriculture, said that the Ministry, through the “Linking Research with Extension '' project, was working with the farmers to enhance their knowledge in the appropriate way they need to grow their crops. We, the people in extension, are working with the farmers to bring to the knowledge of improved agricultural practices.”
He said that the Ministry is collaborating with the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) to ensure that farmers access inputs and improved agriculture practices.