Demeh Farmers Cry for Help

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Mrs. Jenneh and a large pile of cassava ready for peeling and grating.jpg

Demeh, a traditional Gola village on the Monrovia-Tubmanburg highway, is in the news again. It gained recognition as the birthplace of the late Liberian novelist, poet and essayist, Bai T. Moore.

The community has a population of over 300 who survive on cassava farming, and during a recent visit to the village, Mrs. Jenneh Roger, a surviving niece of Bai T. Moore, told the Daily Observer that the community deserves support from the government to get market linkages for their produce.

Mrs. Roger, 65, explained that farmers in the community are hardworking people who are frustrated because they don’t have effective support to enable them to find markets for their products.

“We have large cassava farms,” she said, “and we harvest them at the end of the season and make them into cassava dough and transport them ourselves to local markets.”

She said due to the lack of markets most of their products rot and they lose their income.

She said theirs is a hard existence because they have been doing the backbreaking work without any external support. “I think someone needs to look into our problem and help us,” she added.

A cup of rice at the local market is L$30-L$35 and the community does not have a clinic. The nearest one is about a fifteen-minute walk. “When someone is seriously sick or when a pregnant woman needs to be rushed to seek medical help, we get on a motorbike,” she said.

“We need a clinic in this community. It is a wonder that the man who did much for our country’s place of birth is left without an essential thing like a clinic.”

Mrs. Roger presently supports seven children (six grandchildren and a daughter) at the community school, “from the little income from selling cassava from my farm,” like other residents.

Another relative of Bai T. Moore, Madam Tenneh Moore, who is in her late 60s, helps Mrs. Roger to peel her loads of cassava before being grated into the local fufu.

Mrs. Roger wants financial support as well as market linkages to get her product to wholesalers. She told the Daily Observer that she spends nearly L$15,000 on workers to brush the farm and harvest and get the cassava ready for the market.

“Once we can get financial support,” she said, “we can leave out the difficult work for others and concentrate on the marketing part.”

So far, about 250 cassava farmers in other communities in Bomi County are benefitting through an European Union (EU) grant implemented by the international non-governmental organization ZOA/ADRA to increase their production and income through market linkages with value added products.

“We are yet to benefit from ZOA support,” she said. ZOA sources confirmed to the Daily Observer that 250 cassava farmers are under their project in Bomi County, and that a total number of 1,500 Liberian cassava famers from six counties are befitting from the project.

Bai T. Moore authored MURDER IN THE CASSAVA PATCH (1968) that is being used in Liberian schools presently, and THE MONEY DOUBLER (1976). His poems are part of the anthology ECHOES FROM THE VALLEY (1947).

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