-Assistant Agriculture Minister
Alvin C. Wesseh, Assistant Minister for Regional Development Research and Extension at the Ministry of Agriculture has described youth empowerment in the agriculture sector as cardinal to the growth of the sector.
Minister Wesseh’s statement came in the wake of his interaction with a group of young people who are fully involved in farming activities but do not have any means to empower themselves most especially those in the rural areas.
He told the Daily Observer recently that, as a government, it is important to empower youths that are agriculturally oriented for the transformation of the sector. He added that the Ministry of Agriculture and partners will ensure that those young farmers are empowered for Liberia to be self-sufficient in food production.
Wesseh said research has revealed that young people constitute at least 60% of the country’s population, therefore, if they are fully into the agriculture sector, it is important to get the necessary support from the government. He added, “It is no doubt, that if the government provides the support to the youth, in less than thirty years Liberia will no longer depend on food importation.”
He observed that over the years, youth participation in agriculture has been at a very low rate. “Since my appointment, a personal survey that I have conducted in ten counties has proven that most farmers in Liberia are of the older generation because young people usually consider agriculture to be restricted to the old folks, which has created a serious gap in the sector,” he said.
According to him, about 70% of the country’s population depends on agriculture especially those in the hinterland, while 80% of Liberia’s staple food (rice) is being imported annually at a cost of US$200 million, which he described as counter-productive to the economy.
He attributed the country’s poor performance in agriculture over the years to the previous government’s failure to fully support young farmers.
He, however, called on young people to take up the challenge as the government, through the Ministry and other international partners, who are working together to ensure they are empowered across the country.
Helen Roberts, Director of General Education, of the Liberia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC/LAC) stressed the need for the government to be a “talk-and-do government.”
She told the Daily Observer that over the years Liberians were carried away by promises from politicians during elections. According to her, if a government official promises to empower youths that are currently into farming, they must be able to meet up with those promises to avoid embarrassment.