Agriculture is man’s oldest profession. Apart from farming, early man also domesticated some animals for survival. However, several millennia later, the noble profession has limited youth participation; not enough to make agriculture as a profession and way of life last into the coming centuries.
In Liberia, the introduction of easier and seemingly more lucrative professions has attracted almost the entire youth population of the nation, leaving and seeing agriculture as a profession for the old and illiterate.
Efforts to break such a mindset seem a never ending process, as government and its partners continue to promote a handful of farmers with the hope that they become ambassadors for the country’s agriculture sector.
As strategies to change the mindset of young people keep unfolding, one group is sowing the importance of agriculture in the minds of students at the early stages of their academic sojourns.
The Liberia Mission Inc. (LMI), a humanitarian organization sponsor by the Franciscan Works, is providing children with basic vocational skills as an extra to their academic activities.
Established in 2003, LMI has been catering to less privileged children since, and boasts of having impacted more than two hundred lives through its vocational training programs, which also include agriculture.
The mission, which is now situated on a twenty-five acre land in Blyden Town, Careysburg, hosts a junior high school, the archangel chapel and residences that accommodate students and staff. The students use huge portions of the land for agriculture production and other vocational practices.
In a recent interview with this paper, Liberia Mission Inc. Assistant Director for Administration and Operation J. Raymond Alpha gave the motives of the organization’s agriculture program.
DO: What went through the mind of the mission’s board when this idea was firstly conceived?
LMI: After the acquisition of twenty-five acres (25 acres) of Land, in 2006 the Liberia Mission moved from Duport Road in Paynesville to this current location. Five acres of the twenty five acres of land were used, the remaining acres we decided to do agriculture production. We came out with the idea not because land was available, but because we wanted to add a very valuable skill to the academic education that we were providing. The thought was making sure that kids that leave this institution for higher education have a firsthand skill that they can build on.
DO: Who is the mission generally impacting?
LMI: Earlier, we recruited orphans, because that was just after the 2003 civil crisis. Later, we started recruiting the poorest of the poor; that is, kids who parents could not afford their shelter, feeding and education.
DO: Has the initial expectation of this agriculture program changed?
LMI: It has changed in a positive direction. Initially, we started with just crop production, but we have included livestock management and marketing as well.
We sell about 20% of the farm produce to keep the farm running; the remaining of the produce our students consume. The market component is to mainly sensitize our students about the countless market opportunities that agriculture has.
DO: Who are those purchasing what the students grow, and how do you process and package the produce?
LMI: Most of our produce are bought by expats, but we are between the supermarket and local communities; that means our products are affordable.
We have a slaughter pan, butcher shop where meat are cut into parts, where we later package and refrigerate [make meat cold] the meat before delivering to the city. However, all these processes are done by our students
DO: What does Liberia Mission seeks to achieve by teaching kids agriculture at the early stage of their academic sojourn?
LMI: We are trying to tell our students that agriculture is not an alternative for failure: because you cannot become a doctor, a lawyer or a president, then you end up with agriculture. We are saying no to that mindset.
Agriculture is a career, it is the way to develop the nation, and it is the way to impact society. We are installing productivity in the minds of our students.