-AfricaRice describes proposition as wonderful
The newly appointed minister of agriculture has pledged to make Liberia food self-sufficient in the first four years of his reign, though he did not announce how much money the government is allocating to the agriculture sector
It can however be noted that agriculture has been severely underfunded with not more than 6 percent allocated to agriculture over the 12 years of President Sirleaf’s tenure in office. But the new appointed Minister of Agriculture has, nevertheless, pledged to make Liberia food self-sufficient in the first four years of his reign.
The disclosure was made by Agriculture Minister Dr. Mogana Flomo, who said the government already has a plan to make this dream a reality.
“We can tell you for sure that we will end the issue of food insecurity very soon because we are poised to make the country food secure in the first four years of our administration,” Dr. Flomo assured.
He spoke recently at the close of an intensive two-week rice mills fabrication training conducted by AfricaRice, which brought together local artisans from across the country to Gbarnga, Bong County.
He encouraged every Liberian to support the government’s endeavor to curb unemployment and contribute significantly to the country’s economy.
Minister Flomo also promised to introduce technologies that will not only enhance but transform the agricultural sector.
“We cannot leave technology in this process because it stands at the center of our intervention to make use of every available means to achieve food security,” he said. “We are already putting in place modalities that will enable us to achieve our plan.”
According to poverty studies on Liberia, the country relies heavily on imported food due to the singular fact that most of the country’s farmers are engaged in subsistence farming using outdated tools and methods which tend to undermine productivity. The problem of food insecurity is further compounded by low budgetary support to the agricultural sector, low agricultural production caused by poor farming practices, high post-harvest losses, and very poor road conditions and connectivity.
The subsistence agriculture sector, in which 70 percent of the country’s population is engaged is under-performing due to low investment. Infrastructure development, including roads and bridges, remain a key challenge to facilitate access to markets. Consequently, the country spends over US$200 million annually to import rice.
“I will first have to review the sector to know what all the problems are after taking office,” he said.
It is from such an exercise that the Minister expressed the hope to get firsthand information about which of the counties are empowered to produce rice, vegetables, and other crops, noting, “This will enable us to know which county we will prioritize under our program for rice, vegetables, cassava and others.”
“We will design a framework and see how we can empower all those groups. This is meant to give complete focus to specific issues. We just don’t want to be all over the place. We want to concentrate on results,” the Minister said.
Further, according to the new minister, rice importation is not just one of the huge businesses. Rather, it is one of the most lucrative businesses and it is dominated by foreign investors. Getting this lucrative business out of the hands of foreigners, especially the Lebanese, is a huge task; but the minister indicated that he is prepared to achieve his goal.
“I only need the support of my boss and the lawmakers and we will make this happen. The millions these foreign investors are making here are not developing our country because they take their money back to their countries.”
Dr. Flomo added, “To make the country food secure, especially with rice, remains a challenge that I am prepared to tackle because we are aware of those things, one of which has to do with the importers.”
According to a comprehensive food security and nutrition survey conducted by the government in 2010, most Liberians (83%) live below the poverty line of US $1.25 a day, and 49 percent of the population is considered food insecure, according to a World Food Program 2015 report.
Agriculture: The Solution to Many Problems
AfricaRice’s Country Representative, Dr. Innousa Akintayo, noted at the occasion that the government’s dream of a food self-sufficient country can be actualized but needs sincerity, commitment and huge investment. “This is what we all dream about, and we thank God the government has such a plan.
Dr. Akintayo said agriculture is not only capable of spurring economic growth. It could also curb unemployment, especially among the youths, he said. “The future of Liberians, especially the youths, lies in a more prosperous Liberia, not in Europe, not in America, not at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea or languishing in the heat of the Sahara desert,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that thousands of Africans, including Liberians, are leaving the continent seeking jobs elsewhere. We can curb this unfortunate situation if we multiply this kind of training along agriculture value chain and equip the beneficiaries,” he said.
“Our youth are dying in Libya, in the hot Sahara desert while some are falling into the sea. These are unacceptable. Africa needs to wake up and our leaders need to do better. We have to make Liberia a prosperous country, to reduce these high risks because their departure robs us of so many things, skilled manpower, security and others.