It was a joyous day for several smallholder farmers in Lower Dobli Clan, Fuamah District, Bong County on Wednesday, November 3, when Agriculture Minister, Jeanine M. Cooper and her entourage visited the farmers in that part of the country where she launched a 300 acres upland rice harvest.
The farm is owned and managed by a private individual ‘James K. Nyumah’, a resident of Kakata, Margibi County, who is engaged in various crop production including rice, improved oil palm and cocoa, in the district.
Many of the farmers expressed great enthusiasm about the visit of the minister as, according to them, it was their first time since the end of the Liberian civil war to see a minister of agriculture traveling a long distance from the nation’s capital, Monrovia, to identify with them.
Fuamah District is where the Bong Mining Company once operated before the Liberian civil war. But since the end of the war and as the result of lack of employment opportunities, the many of the residents in the district have seen agriculture as the only alternative for livelihood. But the lack of support from the government remains a greater impediment.
With great excitement, Nyumah told Minister Cooper during her visit that the initiative aims to buttress the government’s effort to reduce hunger and to create jobs for members of the communities.
“The initiative is geared toward supporting the government’s agenda for agriculture under pillar two of the Pro-Poor Agenda for transformation and prosperity, which is aligned with fighting zero hunger of sustainable goal one of the United Nations’ mandate,” he said.
According to Nyumah, at the moment, he has established 300 acres of upland rice, 25 acres of lowland rice, 325 acres of improved oil palm, and 150 acres of cocoa farm in the district.
He said the various projects have created job opportunities for many of the residents of the community and its nearby villages to support their families.
“This venture is providing economic support for the citizens in and around Fuamah district,” he said.
Nyumah said that he was using his own resources to support the various projects without any external support.
“I raise money from my businesses to support the farms. I am doing this work manually — no machine to improve productivity,” he said.
According to Nyumah many farmers in the district are engaged in rice production, but lack processing facilities.
“We are growing more rice in this district but we don’t have the opportunity to process it. We will need government to provide us equipment to enable us to mechanize,” he added.
Launching the harvest, Minister Cooper said: “I am overwhelmed with pride to see the kind of work being done. This is the Liberia that I know; so even when people tell me that we cannot feed ourselves I tell them that this not true.
“The first thing the President George M. Weah showed me after taking over the ministry is for us to establish rice hubs in places where the farmers are producing more to reduce post-harvest losses and make the food we eat more accessible on the market. I have travelled to so many parts of the country to see what farmers are doing and have recognized their potentials,” she stated.
Minister Cooper said that there are plans by her ministry to provide more assistance to farmers to ease the burdens that they are facing.
“There are lots of assistance that can ease the burdens of farmers. This is one of the first farms that I have seen which is very impressive. This farm is going to be a full part of our work as you will soon see the benefits. To start with, we are getting some manual threshers on this farm very soon,” she told the group of farmers during her visit.
She said that Fuamah district, according to a report she has read is one of the areas that is ideal enough for rice production and there is a need that government invests more to improve the farming conditions of the farmers.
“I discovered from a report long time that one of the rice-producing areas in this country is in Fuamah District. Anything that we are planning in the rice sector, you have to be a part of. I strongly believe that with the vision of the President to make agriculture a priority, there will be a great difference for the next few years in the lives of the farmers.
“I believe that such a project from very little resources and without outside support is an example of what Liberians can do.
She mentioned that the Ministry of Agriculture had made available a stimulus package for farmers but, with the emergence of the COVID-19, it was delayed.
“We have started to bring in some equipment and inputs. Farmers need to be patient. But between now to December, we will bring in a lot of supports to farmers,” she disclosed.
For his part, Robert Fagans, Deputy Agriculture Minister for Research Planning and Development, urged Liberian farmers not to wait on the government to grow food, but should take the initiative to cultivate.
“We want farmers not to wait on the government but do something for themselves. The people of Fuamah district are good examples. Under this administration, the Ministry has a plan to support farmers to improve productivity in many ways,” he stated.