The Minister of Internal Affairs (MIA), Varney Sirleaf, has called on Liberians to invest in agriculture to avoid dependency on imported products, including rice.
Although it sounded somehow contrary to his duties and functions as head of local government, Minister Sirleaf, apparently fearing the negative impact of hunger, told Liberians who were in attendance at the Muslim Congress High School graduation on August 17, 2019 that, “We need to harness our individual and collective efforts to plant the food we eat. As most of us hail from rural Liberia, we must engage in meaningful agricultural investments to guarantee our desire for food security and self-empowerment.”
Minister Sirleaf, recalling President George Weah’s statement on Liberia’s 172nd Independence Day, said the President stressed agriculture as an area of investment for Liberians.
“President Weah believes, when people of Liberia develop passion for agriculture to grow more food and other agricultural products, the nation will be able to feed itself and the problems of food shortages will be resolved.”
As a keynote speaker, Minister Sirleaf spoke on the topic, “Investment in Agriculture: A Road to Food Security, Self-Empowerment and Economic Recovery.”
He acknowledged that Liberia is endowed with fertile soil and abundance rainfall that irrigates farms.
“We only need to throw the seed rice or yam tube into the ground, and they will grow and blossom into plants that produce food of different kinds and tastes,” he said.
By doing that, Sirleaf said, Liberians will export surpluses from rice to vegetables and other agricultural products which, accordingly, will save the money used to import rice to better the lives of citizens, and enhance a better standard of living.
“Feeding ourselves as a nation will make us to be self-reliant in food production. Most of the rice we eat in Liberia comes from India, China or other Asian countries. Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) estimates Liberia’s annual per capita consumption of rice at 133kg,” Minister Sirleaf said.
While he is joining President Weah to emphasize the need for investment in agriculture for self sustainability as a nation, the budgetary allotment for this vital entity in the national budget for fiscal year 2019/2010 seems not very encouraging.
In a release published by the Center for Policy Action and Research (CePAR), the 2019/2020 fiscal budget yet to be passed into law commits to the Agriculture sector US$6,208,754.00 or 1.16% of the total budget.
According to CePAR, all spending entities under the MoA took huge cuts in the budget.
In a word of caution to the 88 senior secondary graduates of the Muslim Congress High School, the Minister cautioned students, who are expected to pursue higher education, to know what career to pursue in their higher educational sojourn.
“When you decide to further your education to the university, I admonish you to choose a career that may provide you job security for self-determination; a career that adds value to your existence, multiplies your achievements and makes society to recognize your selfless contributions,” Minister Sirleaf stressed.
He noted that there are many Liberians with undergraduate degrees in various disciplines, including Political Science, Public Administration, Management, Sociology and Accounting, but are finding it difficult to get jobs in their areas of specialty perhaps because of less demand for graduates in those disciplines on the job market.
He further emphasized that Liberia, in his opinion, needs professionals trained in sciences and some technical fields as the world advances along with Liberia.
He said there are demands for more agriculturists to introduce new and innovative ways to approach agriculture in the country; teachers to mold the minds of the younger generation, medical doctors to care for the sick; engineers to build roads and bridges, pilots to put Liberia on the world aviation map, and scientists to make new discoveries for the world.
“Education becomes meaningful only when the achiever uses his/her education to improve his/her condition, impact the lives of others and help to change society; otherwise, education is meaningless,” Minister Sirleaf noted.
Minister Sirleaf then pledged to support four students whose academic records put them on top of others in the senior high section and two outstanding graduates in university for the first semester.
The Muslim Congress High School sent 90 students for the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WASSCE), but two of the 90 students dropped before the administration of the exam.
The administration, headed by a very articulate Principal, Zainab Assaf, boasts of better results that reflects passes for the rest of the 88 students who sat the exam.
Madam Assaf, in an exclusive interview, said it was not an easy task to get students glued to their lessons as they approached the WASSCE, stressing that they had to restrict all assignments and tests to past questions of WASSCE and the way to approach the examination in order to prevent phobia or fright.
She also said their success in the WASSCE came as a result of dedication and commitment of teachers and close supervision to ensure that what needs to be done is done at the right time and in the right scope. The qualifications and competence of the Muslim Congress teachers, according to Madam Assaf, could not be forgotten in the success that came to the institution this year.