Liberia failed to graduate from hand to mouth farming to sufficient food production to sustain the nation, which is the first priority in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 2000 – 2015.
The Director General of Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI), Dr. Walter Wiles last Wednesday told a team of reporters that Liberia failed to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty which is the number one United Nations MDG.
Speaking at his office in Gbarnga, Bong County Dr. Wiles blamed this failure to poor farming systems, lack of support to the farming sector, lack of storage facilities and inadequate manpower.
While appreciating the government’s efforts to alleviate the high cost of living, he called on the government to live up to the demands of contemporary times.
“Liberia has made no significant progress over the years after the civil unrest to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty,” admitted Dr. Wiles, adding that “ government needs to prioritize national food sufficiency through ceaseless productivity.”
Focusing on CARI’s status and responsibilities, Dr. Wiles said CARI is now an autonomous arm of the Ministry of Agriculture responsible for research, recommendations and implementation of policies within its framework.
“At CARI, we focus on research. We are scientists whose job is to find out why certain soil content is good or not good for farming. We do experiments on crops and food trees. We supply agricultural products for multiplication and build capacities in farmers to go beyond their immediate environments in food production,” Dr. Wiles informed reporters.
Concerning challenges, the CARI boss said that research is expensive and takes a huge amount of resources to completely conduct one case related research.
“CARI has challenges,” Dr. Wiles emphasized, adding, “We have inadequate funding; we lack sufficient manpower, logistics and lack the facilities to get all the jobs done.”
On the involvement of women in the agriculture sector, Dr. Wiles said women constitute over 50% of the working population in the sector, but are also faced with challenges.
“What women need to solidify their establishment in the sector is to have access to mechanical tools and the scientific understanding of the sector,” he said.
In response to gender disparity, he condemned the overemphasis on women’s weaknesses and their marginalization by their male counterparts.
“Women are part of society,” he said. “We need them and they need us. What we should avoid is dwelling on the negative side of their coexistence with men. Men, too, go through some constraints initiated by women, but that is no longer a problem. Are men not humans too? Let’s
stop the gender politics and focus on the ways that will shape our lives and reform society for good.”
Dr. Wiles challenged Liberians to learn from Nigeria’s mistake. “Nigeria, having discovered oil, put aside farming and that is today haunting its huge population,” he pointed out.
He said there are varieties of rice, cassava and other cash crops in the country that can easily be multiplied to help end hunger.