Deputy Youth Development Minister Isaac Doe and an array of government officials and World Bank staff on Thursday, June 21, defied gloomy weather and intermittent rainfall to launch the harvest of a booming seven-acre corn field.
The corn field, the first farm to be harvested under the Productive Public Works component of the Youth Opportunities Project (YOP), is located near the lower Gbarpolu County village of Dollehla – some three hours’ drive from Monrovia. It is part of 35 acres being operated by a 28-member farming group of 14 males and 14 females.
Launched in Monrovia in January 2017, YOP is a Government of Liberia initiative funded by a US$10m loan from the World Bank. The scheme, under the supervision of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, seeks to address critical areas of youth development, including improving their access to income generation, and strengthening the government’s capacity to implement its cash transfer program across the country.
YOP’s Productive Public Works component, run by Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE), supports vulnerable rural youth, aged 18-35 years, with simple farm tools and planting materials as well as labor subsidy to engage in communal farming.
By officially commencing the June 21 harvest, Deputy Minister Doe led a successful exercise that ended with the beneficiaries experiencing the first purchase of their corn produce, as the launchers, including Deputy Minister Doe, LACE Deputy Executive Director Joseph T. Williams, the visiting World Bank team, and some senior staff of WFP, chipped in.
Additionally, Deputy Minister Doe, Deputy Executive Director Williams, as well as the World Bank and WFP teams, lauded the farming group for making a significant contribution to food security in Liberia, feasting on a good quantity of the harvested corn – roasted and boiled.
“Economic viability of any society depends on agriculture; it doesn’t matter if it is corn, or rice, or some other crops. Once the people can put their efforts into farming, thereby having something to sustain themselves, I can safely say, their economy will be at an improved stage,” the deputy minister asserted.
Deputy Minister Doe also used the YOP corn harvest to admonish fellow Liberians to take advantage of unlimited opportunities in the agricultural and other productive sectors of the country to ensure economic success.
Having seen the fruits of the project on the Dollehla village farm, Deputy Minister Doe signaled the need for financing scale up YOP, in order to reach out to more beneficiaries.
LACE, implementer of the YOP Productive Public Works component, was also full of praise for its beneficiaries, as expressed through Deputy Executive Joseph T. Williams.
Mr. Williams conveyed a similar warm impression of his Executive Director, Quiwu P. Yeke, and assured Government and the World Bank team of LAC’s firm commitment to excellently implement its component of the project.
“The cash-for-work project is good, like you see today; the beneficiaries are being paid while they harvest what belongs to them, so it is a good thing that we continue this process, and build upon it so that we can sustain the gains made; because if we just do this and after three months we let it go, there will be no positive outcome,” Noted Williams.
“I am happy for YOP, because it has given us the opportunity to work for ourselves, save money from our labor in order to carry out projects we like for our community and help our families,” said Bondo Baker, chairman of the farm.
The chairlady of the farm, Vanah Zennah added: “The project is alright, because it has brought us (farmers) together to help ourselves. The main reason we will save portion of the money raised from the farm is for us to build a community guest house.”