The Ambassador of the European Union (EU), Madam Tiina Intelmann, on Monday announced the allocation of 35 million Euros for agricultural development as well as for “supporting the national auditing watchdog, the General Auditing Commission.”
We thank our EU partners for this grant, which is yet another attempt to help us move along in our development.
This Editorial focuses on the agricultural part of this grant. Our key questions are, what did Ambassador Intelmann mean by the Ministry’s “ongoing efforts to implement the country’s own Agricultural Transformation Agenda”?
Second, what specific help will the 8.5 million and 7 million Euros give Liberian cocoa farmers and fishers respectively?
What specifically will these sums of money be used for? Will they go directly to the cocoa farmers and fishermen, or will they be used for MOA officials to buy expensive vehicles to ride around Monrovia spend on other administrative costs?
We remember distinctly that in the mid-1980s the Japanese government donated to the GOL over 20 pickups in support of rural agriculture. But the Daily Observer soon noticed that most of those pickups were being driven around
Monrovia. When we raised the issue in the newspaper, the then Agriculture Minister, Dr. Scott Gbolorzoe Toweh, met the Observer Publisher at a Cameroon Embassy reception and blasted him before the crowd. However, the more the Publisher, terribly embarrassed for the Minister and his government, tried to quiet him and remind him that he should not be conducting himself in that manner at a diplomatic reception, the more Minister Toweh shouted, hurling insults at the Publisher. The Publisher quietly walked away and left the reception in a bid to tame the Minister’s anger and save the government from further embarrassment.
We do not expect Agriculture Minister Moses Zinnah, another Ph.D like Toweh, to behave in similar fashion, for we know that Dr. Zinnah is clearly of a saner and more humble character.
What we want to know today is: what is the MOA’s Agriculture Transformation Agenda (ATA)? Is it an answer to what this newspaper, even as late as last week, has been asking—for a National Agriculture Policy? We would like to know what this ATA is. Was the phrase coined by the EU Ambassador herself? Or did she pick it up from the lips of the Agriculture officials, or from some MOA document?
We would like to know the details of the ATA, in order to convince ourselves that this is not another beautiful, high sounding phrase that means little or nothing, but amounts simply to Hamlet’s “Words, words, words.” How will the 7 million Euros help our fishermen? Does this fisheries program have anything to do with the World Bank-funded fisheries development projects in Robertsport, Buchanan, Harper, Greenville and other places?
All we are trying to emphasize in this Editorial is the need for FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS in our agricultural policies and practices, so that at the end of the day, which is fast approaching for this Administration, our cocoa farmers and our fishermen will have something TANGIBLE to show that they have benefitted from yet another “Development Partner’s” grant.
We are today sending our Diplomatic Correspondent, Joaquin Sendolo, to the EU Commission to find more details of the utility of this grant.
We are also sending our Farm Correspondent, Judoemue Kollie, to the MOA to get their take, their interpretation of this new EU grant and what it will really mean for our cocoa and fisheries sectors.
We are hoping to receive in the coming days a statement from Agriculture Minister Zinnah, not a reaction to this editorial, but setting forth, for the benefit of the Liberian people, what his vision is for the nation’s Agriculture in this last stretch of Ellen’s administration. We hope that Minister Zinnah will address the burning issue of the deployment of Agriculture Extension Agents to our farmers throughout the country; and also the issue of markets for all our farm produce, especially rice.
We realize that it is markets, markets, markets that will boost our agricultural productivity and lead us, at long last, towards food self-sufficiency.