USAID’s Farmer of the Year Promotes Garden Programs

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-Program to increase homes’ nutrition intake and lure children to agriculture

Urban population growth is affecting land availability for vegetable production, a situation beclouding the future of urban farming in Liberia. But USAID’s 2019 Farmer of the Year, Sophie Parwon, is one of the few trying to keep home gardening momentum high.

Parwon became USAID 2019 Farmer of the Year for focusing on providing best agricultural practices to rural farmers and producing livestock to tackle the issue of affordable fresh meat in urban areas of Monsterrado and Grand Bassa counties.

Through her agro-company, the Wede Agriculture Development Industry Inc., she is delivering technical services to households and schools in Monrovia and Paynesville municipalities to help them grow fresh vegetables and improve nutritional intake. 

 “Our vision for the urban vegetable garden is for homes and schools to consume fresh vegetables right from their backyard,” she says.

Sophie Parwon, USAID’s Farmer of the Year receiving her award

The award-winning farmer says that the journey of her program began from her quest to meet her kitchen’s needs. “Sourcing vegetables was a little problem particularly when it came to quality. Vegetables that are transported from a distance tend to have strong quality concerns because of post-harvest challenge. That was how I began growing vegetables in my backyard,” Parwon said.

Parwon grows okra, eggplant, pepper, and other exotic vegetables. Unlike her competitors who develop plots for vegetable production, Parwon has swerved from the general procedures. She has incorporated organic farming, and is growing vegetables in low-cost items.

“Most times, people engage me with the concern of land-space to grow vegetables and I tell them they can grow vegetables without creating plots,” she says. “Organic farming is another thing I am encouraging them to do. My team develops the compost-soil and we let our clients know how they can keep supplying their desired crops with nutrients just from common materials like kitchen residues and animals manure.” 

Kids from the Heritage International Leadership Academy transplanting vegetable

Parwon’s program has been experiencing steady growth since she introduced it in 2015. To date, Wede Agriculture Development Industry Inc. caters to 21 clients that comprise schools and homes. 

Speaking on the overwhelming food and nutritional crisis in Liberia, Parwon expressed optimism that initiatives similar to hers can change the downward course of Liberia’s employment, nutritional and food crises.

“I think vegetable farming in households is the way to go for us because we will have the produce of high nutritive value vegetables right at our backyards,” she says. “For the schools, it is important that we introduce the concept of home-grown vegetable to children so they can grow up seeing agriculture as a valuable carrier and source of fresh food. Habits introduced during childhood remain to adult life.” The changes, she says, depend on homes and schools  initiating gardening programs.

According to the 2015 emergency food security assessment carried out by the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) 16 percent of households in Liberia are food insecure. The report adds that 2 percent of Liberian households are severely insecure. Also, Liberian households spend over 65 percent of their income getting food. 94 percent of workers live on less than 2 dollars per day.

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