The Link Between Roads, Nutrition and Agricultural Development

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In last Thursday’s Editorial we raised the serious and urgent question, Who is responsible for the failure of Liberian agriculture? We ended by saying ourselves, and no one else!

Today, we visit another agricultural subject, but one very closely linked to agriculture—roads. Remember that we at the Daily Observer have been writing about bad roads for a long time, and not writing only, but paying a heavy price, too. On August 16, 1983 Justice Minister
Jenkins Scott summarily closed down the Daily Observer office because of our front page caption story entitled “Bad, Bad, Bad Roads.”

The caption appeared under the photograph of two huge trucks facing each other on the same side of the road, both stuck in deep mud. One was filled with produce from the nation’s breadbasket, Lofa County, headed for markets in Gbarnga and Monrovia, while the other was en route to Kolahun and Foya, two of the nation’s leading food producing districts, to bring more produce to the markets.

We thought that the caption story would have served as a wakeup call to the government of Liberia to hurry and fix that road, which was critical to the people’s nutrition and the farmers’ earning capacity. Instead, the Doe government took serious exception and shut down the newspaper for a month!

But we all have to be very careful what we do in this life, especially how we use power, for no one knows tomorrow. Speaking of the link between bad roads and nutrition, who remembers what happened a few years down the road to former Justice Minister Jenkins Scott?

Well, History paid him a shameful and tragic visitation on November 26, 2010. And where did this visitation take place? Alas, alongside another “bad, bad road,” next to a huge dumpsite! It was there that the former all powerful Justice Minister Jenkins Scott, afflicted with hunger, had gone looking for food! It was there, too, that he collapsed and died! Second Samuel exclaims, “How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!”

Here lay the consequences not only of the link between nutrition and bad roads, but also the abuse of power. It should teach us all that we should be very careful how we use power, when it is given to us.

We must here pause to say Lord have mercy on Mr. Jenkins Scott’s soul and grant him peaceful rest.

Our Assistant Farm Reporter Gloria Tamba produced a story on the Liberia Agri-business Development Activity (LADA) project focusing on cocoa and agribusiness. That story was the subject of the following Thursday’s Editorial raising the question of who is to blame for Liberia’s
agricultural failure. Just above Gloria’s story was another by our Grand Gedeh correspondent, George Harris, very similar to our 1983 bad road caption story. Correspondent Harris’ story brought public attention to another “bad” road condition on the Nimba-Grand Gedeh highway.

The story showed two photos of the muddy roads that seriously hampered the transport of farm produce to the markets. This was causing farmers to lose money because of their crops’ delay and decay on the muddy highway which, Harris warned, was seriously affecting the nation’s nutrition. Without good food, the people will go hungry, Reporter Harris said.

In today’s Editorial, we once again crave the attention of Public Works Minister Gyude Moore. We hope that Minister Moore has seen our December 1 story and has decided to do something about it. Our Legislators, most of whom hail from upcountry, do not have to be reminded that in their budgetary allocations they should factor in road maintenance and INSIST upon and ENSURE that sufficient allotments are made to build, fix and maintain the country’s roads.

Only last week we published another Editorial on the desperate plea by two southeastern Senators, River Gee’s Alfred Chea and Grand Kru’s Dr. Peter Coleman, pleading with GOL to fix the roads leading to their counties. They, too, lamented that the road conditions were not only hampering the people’s access to medical and healthcare but also food, much of which comes from Monrovia and elsewhere.

When we write about roads, let everyone be reminded that the issues at stake go far beyond our comfortable ride on laterite or coal tar. Also at stake are our people’s healthcare delivery, their availability to books and other educational materials and also, more critically, the supply of food, without which no one can live.

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