We think President George Weah made an inspired decision to appoint Madam Jeanine Cooper as Agriculture Minister.
Why? Because farming is in her blood. Why do we say that? Because long before she was born, and while her uncle John and his younger brother Julius Cooper were yet very young people, their father, and Jeanine’s grandfather, Mr. John Louis Cooper, Sr., started a rubber farm on the Bong Mines Road in Lower Bong County—but that was long before Bong Mining Company was even established. The farm, like many along that road run by Monrovia’s many “gentlemen farmers,” became successful and that is how Mr. Cooper and his wife, Mrs. Eugenia Simpson Cooper, a professional educator, became independent middle class people, able to provide their children with a sound education.
Mr. Cooper, Sr. was not himself a professional farmer; he was a telecommunications engineer and one of the senior officials who built up what is now the Liberia Telecommunication Corporation on Lynch Street, Monrovia.
It was his younger son Julius who, following his graduation from the College of West Africa (CWA) in 1957, proceeded to the United States to study Agronomy, the branch of agriculture dealing with field crop production and management. On Julius’ return with the Master’s degree in Agronomy, he commenced work at the Department (now Ministry) of Agriculture. He was assigned to the Government Farm in Suakoko (now the Central Agricultural Research Institute–CARI) and later became Deputy Minister of Agriculture. He and his older brother John Louis Cooper, Jr., continued to run and expand their father’s rubber farm and became very successful at it, making themselves independent men, in spite of their government employment, and educating their children. John’s first daughter, Dr. Janice Cooper, earned a PhD and has devoted her services to her country ever since. One of John’s other daughters, Helene Cooper, is a senior editor at the New York Times.
So Mrs. Jeanine Cooper, Liberia’s new Agriculture Minister, brings to her new job a rich agricultural heritage; and not that only, but her passion for farming, as well as her academic and professional pedigree in diversified sub-sectors agriculture, to found, establish and run a distinctly agricultural company, Fabrar, which not only encourages farmers to grow more rice through the purchase of paddy but exposes the country to the international markets. .
And though she spent many years abroad as an international civil servant—she returned home and was led to plunge herself into farming, rice in particular, and soon developed a successful establishment planting, harvesting and marketing this all important commodity in Liberia. She named her company Fabrar.
She connected herself with a farming cooperative in one of the key rice-growing areas of the country, Nimba County. The group she identified herself with was the Dokodan Multipurpose Farming Cooperative.
Ms. Cooper worked with Dokodan and other cooperatives around the country, doing what the Liberian government found hard to do. She engaged them constructively, providing them with critical inputs—improved rice seeds, fertilizers and insecticides. These are what farmers throughout the country, indeed throughout the world, need to make to make them successful in their work. Ms. Cooper went one important step further: she purchased the farmers’ produce, in this case rice, and this encouraged them to grow more rice, and become successful; and so did Ms. Cooper’s Fabrar enterprise.
When she purchased the farmers’ rice, she processed it and sold it to institutional buyers, especially for School Feedings, run by the World Food Program (WFP) and Mary’s Meals. She also supplied rice for government employees.
In addition, Ms. Cooper exported her products, especially rice, to Europe and the United States. We consider this a visionary initiative.
But this is what the Liberian government has over the decades failed to do for our farmers; and that is why Liberia remains a nation of subsistence farmers.
We earlier called her appointment visionary because Jeanine has stepped out of the box in a brave attempt to lift Liberian agriculture up from subsistence farming and propelled it to the international market!
We pray that she will, unlike so many of her predecessors in that Ministry, remained FOCUSED and TOTALLY COMMITTED and reach out to our farmers, farming institutions and agricultural training schools and, at long last, lift Liberian agriculture to a successful, pristine pedestal (foundation).
In so doing, she may become the first Agriculture Minister to end subsistence farming in Liberia and make our farmers rich, successful and prosperous, and our country self-sufficient in food.