Looking at strengthening environmental sustainability while promoting food security
As part of enhancing the government’s “Pro-poor Agenda,” a locally-based non governmental organization (NGO), Rural Integrated Center for Community Empowerment/RICCE, has completed a two-day stakeholders’ workshop on conservation agriculture, targeting communities around the ArcelorMittal-Liberia (AML) Concession areas.The exercise was held in Sanniquellie, Nimba County political capital.
The workshop, held under the theme, “Exploring Opportunities to Strengthen Environmental Sustainability, while Promoting Food Security, Income and Nutrition for Rural Communities,” brought together over 80 participants from communities around the AML and the East Nimba Nature Reserve (ENNR), the only national park in Nimba County.
Topics covered included Climate Agriculture– Linkages to Environmental Sustainability and Poverty Alleviation, Renewable Energy – Linkages to Sustainability and Poverty Alleviation, Indigenous Conservation, Land Use Planning with Linkages to Environmental Sustainability, and Poverty Alleviation.
With funds from AML, RICCE is involved with training residents around the company’s concession area as well as the ENNR in Conservation Agriculture, a new method of farming.
In this method, farmers are restricted to do faring in one area over and over without slashing, and burning method, where every year farmers have to move from one place to another in search of a new farmland.
RICCE activity covers Zor, where ENNR is situated, and the Yarmine area, which is closed to the Guinean border, and also an area where AML is currently mining Mount Gangra.
This area is another zone known as “West Nimba,” although it has been declared a park as compared to East Nimba; but it contains some varieties of endangered species and is also the busiest mining zone now under AML.
RICCE Executive Director Madam Salome G. Gofan said the workshop is part of the entity’s project along the ENNR titled, “Increasing Food Security, Income Generation of Local Community, and Using Sustainable Environmental Practices for Income, and Food Security.”
It is designed for communities around the nature reserve for conservation purposes.
The ENNR is a protective area set aside by the government as reserved forest or park, and so the locals, who originally own the land, are constrained with livelihood; but now AML is sponsoring the project to provide alternative livelihoods for the communities.
“Because their lands have been taken, if they continue to do shifting farming/slash and burn farming they are going to cause degradation to the land and conflict in the future,” she said.
She added that RICCE introduced the “Conservation Agriculture” through which farmers can continue farming on a small plot of land they have to raise food income, because of environmental problems.
The workshop, which ended with expert discourse brought on board personalities with vast knowledge in environment and climate change.
Dr. Samuel N. Duo from the College of Agriculture and Forestry at the University of Liberia, discussed the importance of climate change and modern day agriculture or farming method, such as “Climate Smart Agriculture.”
Green Gold Liberia General Manager Morris Flomo Dougba stressed the importance of forest with emphasis on renewable energy, where the usage of forest will be minimized.
Saye Thompson, Chairman of Liberia Community Forest Management Body and also chairman of ENNR Co–management Committee, said that the indigenous conservation and land use and planning were one of the newest method farmers should take serious.
“I think we Liberians need to embrace this new idea of conservation so as to sustain ourselves by adding value to our productivity,” said Mr. Thompson.
He added that this method, if embraced, will reduce the community from shifting and diversify farming that will help them yield a good result at the end of the year.