The Ebola outbreak in Liberia has disrupted agricultural activities and threatened food security affecting the livelihood of many people in Bong County.
Bong, which is considered one of the food producing counties in Liberia, is experiencing a huge decline in food production for the local markets as a result of the Ebola virus in the county.
During an assessment conducted by the Daily Observer last weekend in communities that were greatly affected by the Ebola disease, it was observed that inhabitants in those communities including areas that were not quarantined have cut down their regular diet due to food insecurity.
In Gbarnga City, this paper also established that some residents have reduced their regular diet as the result of low supply of locally produced foods on the market.
It was confirmed by this reporter that farmers in Ebola affected communities have had their farming activities considerably disrupted by the Ebola outbreak resulting in a significant slump in rice production.
“I am finding it extremely difficult to provide food for my family. My family has to starve the whole day just to save a bit of food for the day” said Lorpu-Kollie Tokpa, a farmer in Barlakerthela, one of the hardest hit Ebola communities in the county.
It was also noticed by this paper that farmers who produce cocoa complained of their commodity rotting because cocoa buyers are frightened to risk going into Ebola-affected communities to purchase their crop.
“Many migrant workers, who normally help with harvesting our cocoa have slowed down their activities for fear of contracting the disease. I used to harvest my produce up to 75 bags but now 20 bags are difficult to yield,” Mr. David Kermue a cocoa farmer in Taylor Town lamented.
It was observed by this reporter that closed markets and interruption in trade as well as the restriction on the movement of people have led to acute shortages of food in many communities in Bong County, particularly those communities that are affected by the Ebola virus disease.
Our survey revealed that land that was cleared for farming was not planted due to the Ebola outbreak in the country and many farmers had to migrate compelling them to abandon their farms.
This paper was informed that during this harvest season in Liberia many of the farmers who were affected by the virus are terrified to go back to their farms to harvest and are also afraid to take their produce to the local markets because of the low purchasing power of consumers.
The price of imported rice, the country’s staple food, has increased while locally produced commodities decreased in quantity owing to the fact that household incomes have substantially dwindled compelling families to cut down the number of daily meals.
According to Stephen Matthews, the Agriculture Commissioner on Communal Farming at the Ministry of Internal Affairs assigned in Bong County, one of the factors responsible for the decrease in food production is government’s pronouncement against people gathering in large groups. This Ebola preventive measure against large gatherings affects the traditional cooperative system “kuu” which entails farmers grouping together to harvest or work in each other’s fields.
Mr. Matthews told this paper that the county will likely face the threat of severe food shortages because farmers particularly in rural communities that were greatly affected by the Ebola disease are not willing to return to their farms for fear of contracting the virus.
“The catastrophes after Ebola will be the calamitous food scarcities, price hikes and food insecurity in this county,” Mr. Matthews warned.
Many of the Gbarnga residents who spoke with this newspaper advanced that the international community and the Government of Liberia strengthen strategic institutions such as the hospitals and the agriculture sectors in the post Ebola crisis in order for the country to regain its food production capacity.
The citizens maintained that families be provided with food assistance and that GOL promote food security and encourage social development in communities at risk.