Says Chief Zanzan Kawor
The head of the Council of Chiefs and Elders in Liberia Chief Zanzan Kawor is calling for the changing of the Legislative Agriculture break from September to dry season, so as to allow lawmakers to make farms.
Speaking at the ongoing National Traditional Leaders Conference in Ganta on Monday, June 4, 2018, he said one of the reasons there is continued shortage of food in Liberia is because government officials are not involved in farming.
He questioned the likelihood of an agriculture break coming in September, just when the rains are heavy and when farming activities are almost coming to close.
“The agriculture break for the legislature should be changed, so the senators and the representatives can make farms,” he said.
‘When the senators, representatives and all the officials are making farms, all of us will do something great for the country,” he said.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs, with support from the Carter Center and funds from United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Sweden last week conducted a three-day conference in Ganta for traditional chiefs and elders to explain the government’s “Pro Poor Agenda.”
After one of the presentations, which covered government’s development plan, with emphasis on the “Pro Poor Agenda” of implementing development projects that will meet the needs of Liberia’s poor and which was presented by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), the chiefs stressed the need to strengthen the agriculture sector so as to alleviate hardships in the country.
The MFDP narrated that the government spends about US$200M annually to import rice into the country, a situation that baffled the chiefs and elders who wanted to know the exact role of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), given the huge budgetary allotment spent annually.
During the question and answer period following the presentation, many chiefs frowned at the MoA for not doing enough to fight hunger. They therefore want the “Pro Poor” government under President George M. Weah to ensure the MoA carries on its function effectively.
“We the chiefs, we live by farming and we only need some empowerment from government and good roads,” said Chief Joseph Tarlu of Grand Gedeh.
“Under Tolbert, Doe, Liberia was not importing as it is today, because people were totally involved in farming, but now nobody wants to work,” he said.
Some of the chiefs recommended that the budget for purchasing expensive vehicles should be slashed to improve the agriculture sector.
Chief Kawor, responding to the chief’s questions and suggestions, told the chiefs to empower themselves, adding, “I have a farm where I also raise cattle and livestock.”
He said since the “Pro Poor Agenda” is mainly for the poor and needed the chiefs and elders’ import, they will work with the government to achieve development plans.
Day one of the conference was very interactive, where chiefs and elders pointed out some weaknesses in the past government and urged the “Pro Poor” government under President Weah to take serious note.
The chiefs want hut tax to be reintroduced, to enable the government meet its development objectives and avoid borrowing money from all over the world.
Chief Wesseh of Sinoe County urged the new government to review the concession agreement of many companies and make sure they produce finished products in Liberia.
He said Firestone is getting all the rubber from Liberia, yet we are still buying plastic plates and slippers from other countries. Now Golden Veroleum is cultivating huge tracts of land in the southeast with palm, with the intent to take palm oil to another country, produce soap and sell it to the Liberian market.
The conference is sponsored by the Carter Center. Its head, Mr. Pewee S. Flomoku, said the Center is working in four different areas in Liberia, including access to justice, mental health and democracy programs.
“We’re doing all of these because the Center has agreed to work with the Liberian government and this is one of the ways we support the government,” he said.
The occasion was attended by scores of government officials, including Deputy Internal Affairs Minister Emmett Reeves, Rev. William R. Tolbert, II, Supt. Dorr Cooper, among others.