The Mano River Union (MRU) sub-region, which comprises Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and La Cote D’Ivoire, is not yet fully relieved from the grasp of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) that has devastated and crippled the already weak economies of its member states, exacerbating food insecurity in Sierra Leone and Liberia, a senior official of the World Bank (WB) has said.
As a result, the senior official said the destiny of the region lies in the hands of its member states.
World Bank Senior Agricultural Specialist, Dr. Abimbola Adubi, said it is time for the region and Africa to take over its destiny because the continent has all of what it takes to become one of the most advanced continents on the globe.
It is therefore no secret that despite the abundant natural resources that the Mano River sub-region is endowed with, coupled with vast arable land for agriculture, the EVD outbreak impacted the region due to lack of those infrastructures that are mostly needed.
Making remarks at a two-day MRU conference in Monrovia on Monday, Dr. Adubi said, the region may have all of the natural resources, but will only achieve its true development potential through agriculture.
The MRU conference is a sub-regional consultation aimed at developing a strategy to increase Rain-Fed and Upland rice production in the region, especially in the three worst affected Ebola countries.
Participants are drawn from the four member states of the region. The consultation ends today and it is being held under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Liberia office of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP).
“It is time for the region to take over its destiny. The MRU and the African continent in general, will only develop through agriculture,” Dr. Adubi insisted.
He said the World Bank is now striking deals with the continent on the basis of a Win-Win situation in the interest of the people. This has to do with encouraging and empowering countries to focus more on areas of their comparative advantages that will be more beneficial.
He charged the delegates to come out with results that will be in the interest of the people of the region so that agriculture can be prioritized.
He also suggested four points that should be given consideration during their deliberations. These have to do with high productivity; strengthening of seed systems; how to support farmers; value addition which would also call for the inclusion of the private sector and national action plans that are innovative but do not exceed two years.
Agriculture Minister designate, Dr. Moses Zinnah, said it has been proven that agriculture is four times more efficient to reduce poverty than any other sector of the economy. He noted that it is unfortunate that the continent spends US$35 billion on food importation though it makes up 65% of arable land of the globe that is suitable for agricultural activities.
Dr. Zinnah indicated that food is life and when available in abundance for the needs of the citizenry, it also serves as security.
Also making remarks, the Deputy Secretary General of MRU, Dr. Simeon Moriba, indicated that rice has social, political, economic and security implications as was the case with Liberia during the late 1970s.
He wondered why the region is still faced with the crisis of food insecurity though this problem has persisted for years under successive regimes. He said that the problem was the result of the lack of tangible actions and hoped that the conference would go a long way in addressing them.