Highlighting what he called ‘impeccable progress’ made in various sectors since the birth of the Agenda for Transformation (AfT) in December 2012, outgoing Minister of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), Amara M. Konneh has said that more is needed to make Liberia a middle income country by 2030, and that more robust support toward developing agriculture in the country could lead the way.
Minister Konneh made the assertion yesterday in the auditorium of Bong County Administrative Building where the National Development Summit is held under the theme, “Liberia Rising 2030; Taking Stock of a Shared Future,” which was witnessed by a cross section government officials and local and international partners.
He said despite the level of support government and partners have provided to the agriculture sector over the years, “Liberia continues to depend hugely on imported rice, which now calls for concerted efforts to boost the sector to make the country food sufficient.”
According to Minister Konneh, about US$152 million has been invested in the agriculture sector over the years, but observed that the country had remained ineffective in addressing the issue of food security.
The country’s food problem, he said, will only be addressed through collaborative efforts.
“There is a need to promote a robust, competitive and modernized agriculture sector and supported by sustainable economic growth and development. The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) supported 19 young Liberians to study advanced degrees in the areas of agriculture specialization and is now embedded within MOA’s central and field office. MOA is continuing its support to 46 additional staffers who are studying at master’s and Ph.D levels,” Minister Konneh said.
He said through the Smallholder Tree Crops Revitalization Project (STCRSP), particularly in Lofa County, MOA revitalized seven cocoa and coffee cooperatives, which sold 300 metric tons of cocoa to the Liberia Agricultural and Asset Development Company (LAADCO).
He added that efforts are underway to extend rubber farms in Margibi and Montserrado counties; coffee and cocoa in Bong, Grand Gedeh and Nimba; and oil palm in Grand Bassa counties.
He said through the Agricultural sector rehabilitation program, funded by the African Development Bank (AFDB) has provided farming tools and inputs to 221 farmers. These include 25,710 bundles of cassava, 3,350 kg of corn seeds, 1,200 kg of peanuts and 525 kg of rice seed as well as culverts being constructed along farm-to-market roads in four of the 15 counties.
Minister Konneh also highlighted other sectors including health, education, road networks, electricity, infrastructures, peace and reconciliation among others, where he said progress was being made.
As for the water and sanitation, Minister Konneh said the government and partners have increased access to safe water supply and sanitation, as well as improving hygiene practices, and pledged government’s commitment to reach out to other parts of the country.
“432 hand-dug wells have been constructed and rehabilitated in seven counties, providing improved access to water supply for over 108,000 people. Sixteen kiosks have been constructed and rehabilitated, benefiting 24,000 people. 10,566 family latrines have been constructed, resulting in 383 communities in seven counties and declared open defecation free,” he explained.
In remarks, Oretha Weedor, women’s group representative, recommended that the national government engage in county or regional farming activities, which she believes will help to make Liberia food secure.
“Any nation that does not feed itself is not independent, because any body that controls your stomach, controls you. Government spends lot of money to import rice, so we suggested in 2012 that since our senators and representatives always go on ‘agriculture break,’ we want every county to have a merchandized farming organized and supported by government,” she said.
According to her, many of the lawmakers do not have a farm, but always take ‘agriculture breaks,’ adding, “If such initiative is undertaken, our lawmakers will provide job opportunities for their constituents.”