Having embarked on his first county tour since election in 2017, President George Manneh Weah has says he is using the time to spread his “Back to the Soil” message, inspiring the citizenry to focus on agriculture production towards poverty alleviation.
On his first stop, Bong County, President Weah shared his agriculture vision with rural dwellers, mainly farmers, emphasizing the need for self-sufficiency in food production to bolster the Liberian economy and decrease the country’s dependency on imported food.
The President said Liberians do have the capacity to grow what they eat and to eat what they grow but needed to overcome complacency and idleness to achieve food security. He made a passionate clarion call for all Liberians to go back to the soil to grow their own food if they will surmount poverty and food insecurity.
Making remarks Friday, February 12, 2021, at the Weah Administration’s first National Agriculture Fair, at the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) in Bong County, the Liberian Leader said the government was committed and willing to work with farmers in meeting their needs for greater agriculture productivity.
“In collaboration with the world bank, our partner, we are providing US$16 million in funding to support private sector involved with farming in Liberia,” the President announced.
President Weah said the program would capture large scale and smallholder farmers.
The President has thus authorized the Minister of Agriculture, Madam Jeanine Cooper, to begin what he calls “the process of first providing a database of all those in the areas of rice, cocoa, palm oil and rubber.”
He said he would subsequently set up a technical committee that will include the ministries of Agriculture, Finance and Development Planning, Commerce, State for Presidential Affairs, Justice as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Their task would be to work with the banks to ensure qualification, allocation and disbursement of the stipulated funds.
The President stressed: “When I say we should eat what we grow, and grow what we eat, I mean it. We must utilize our soil.”
Besides the funding announced, the Liberian President also said government is collaborating with the World Bank to ensure that farmers have access to low interest rate lending from local banks.
“It is time for Liberians to take ownership of producing more food and as a result we will begin to decrease our dependency on imported food,” he stressed.
The President noted that the display of Liberia-made products at the National Agriculture Fair provided sufficient and reasonable conviction why government must invest in farmers to collectively promote the agriculture sector and become potential exporters of Liberian products on the global market.
President Weah, however, bemoaned the lack of productivity and progress in the agriculture sector over the last decades, describing this situation as the most deplorable he has seen in years.
The President said it was high time Liberians changed the dynamics, emphasizing that the situation would remain the same if nothing substantially practical was done to improve on the progress made in recent months.
Earlier at two different meetings with residents of Salala and Sanoyea Districts, the President said Agriculture remains a top priority of the government as it is one of the fundamental pillars of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).
The President also thanked the people of Bong County for the confidence reposed in him as their leader, stating that his government will continue to work assiduously in order to deliver on promises made during the campaign in 2017.
“This tour is to first thank you for the confidence reposed in us. Second, it is to listen to you some of the burning issues you have,” President said.
He said Government has done much work than expected in a very short period of time towards improving the welfare of citizens and that his administration is determined to do more in the interest of all Liberians.
Presenting various petitions to the President and Government, the citizens called on the President to give more attention to agriculture production for sustained economic revitalization and growth.
Among other things, the citizens appealed to President Weah to undertake series of developments in their areas. Many requested for reconditioning and expanding road corridors, market structures, technical education centers for youth skills development, community college, county status for Lower Bong as well as logistical support for security personnel in the area.
President Weah called on the citizens to work with their lawmakers on these issues, promising to lend his fullest support.
He also appealed to the citizens to appeal to their lawmakers to work with the government, and don’t see themselves as not being part of the government.
At the same time, the Liberian Leader thanked the people of Salala and Sanoyea for maintaining peace since the departure of UNMIL, stressing that it would be difficult to achieve progress in the absence of peace.