It was several months ago that this newspaper, the Daily Observer, raised the alarm that the Community of Hope Agricultural Project (CHAP) at Du Port Road had been abandoned by the Agriculture Ministry which had initially given the farmers there great encouragement.
But last year the farmers began to complain that they had been "abandoned" by the Ministry, creating great fear that this exemplary urban farm project would be allowed to die a painful natural death.
Our story, written by our faithful and indefatigable Farm Correspondent Judoemue Kollie, reechoed the Du Port Road farmers' fear that the project was at the point of death unless the Ministry returned and continued to lend it support. The story was followed by an editorial reprimanding the Agriculture Ministry for abandoning the
project and its failure to follow through with was clearly a GOOD THING.
As usual, many government officials–or people in general who ascend to power–soon forget their sense of responsibility to the people and behave unaccountably as though they are laws unto themselves. They resent the slightest criticism and mistake it for "negative press" and the turning of a blind eye to what the government is doing.
But surely, we have often praised many government officials and projects that have been constructive and good. But how can we keep silent when things go wrong–we cannot and MUST not! For the poet reminds, "To sin by silence when we should protest, makes cowards out of men . . ."
Alas! Even though belatedly, the Ministry of Agriculture has returned to the Du Port Road farm project and given the farmers some hope. Their grateful response was so overwhelming that Agriculture Minister Florence Chenoweth gladly escorted the President of Liberia to the site where she, too, became highly impressed with the people's work. Working under the auspices of CHAP and with the help of the Ag
Ministry, the Du Port Road farmers have introduced a new rice planting method which they call a "system of rice intensification–SRI." According to Reporter Kollie, it consists of producing rice with less seed, less water, less fertilizer on soil rich in organic matter.
President Sirleaf seized the opportunity to reecho her constant appeal to inhabitants of cities around the country to "engage in agriculture" in our struggle to become self-sufficient in food.
The time has long past when we should engage in rice production on a massive scale, for Liberia indeed has the capacity to become a rice exporter, for we have what it takes–extensive tracks of fertile acreage including, as we said in Monday's editorial, unlimited mileage of swampland that can produce three harvests of rice per year.
We pray that the Agriculture Ministry will heed our suggestion to develop a strategy to achieve self-sufficiency in our staple, rice. Beyond that, we hope that international capital could be raised to encourage people abroad, especially from Asia, come and invest in large scale rice production.
These strategies, if conscientiously pursued, will soon make importation of rice in Liberia a thing of the distant past.