Ready For Agriculture Production •Weah Mobilizes Citizens to Fully Get Involved •Government, Partners Pump In $16m
President George Manneh Weah has kicked off the first leg of his first countrywide tour since his election, going from village to village, not only thanking Liberians for electing him in 2017, but also encouraging them to share his agriculture vision and make it a reality. There couldn’t be a better time and place for the messaging with which he cruises through Central, Northern and Southeastern corridors. Firstly, the bulk of Liberia’s nearly 5 million people depend of agriculture as the major source of living, and secondly, development agents agree that with the country’s traditional revenue streams drying out rapidly, agriculture is the viable mainstay. As Managing Editor Stanley Seakor reports from the countryside, the President is not “making things lazy”, the Liberian parlance for “taking things extremely seriously”; the Chief Executive is capitalizing every moment with the rural population by opening a fresh frontier in the fight against poverty and in making his first term in office most memorable in the history of Africa’s first republic.
Minutes before taking the mantle of the Liberian presidency in December 2017, President-elect George Manneh Weah in his inaugural address named agriculture as the major priority for his young administration in jumpstarting the economy.
It can also be recalled as per his interview with Reuters, Dr. Weah said once said: “Ghana exports. Other neighboring countries do export. We also do have the capacity to export. They export and we can do the same.”
Now halfway into the third term of his six-year administration, President Weah is hell-bent on practicalizing his promise.
Utilizing his first nationwide tour since his election to spread his “Back to the Soil” message, President Weah on February 12, 2021 launched the National Agriculture Fair 2012, driving from Monrovia to Bong County where citizens lined the streets of villages, hamlets, towns and cities, beseeching their “bad road medicine” president to prioritize the construction and rehabilitation of farm-to-market roads if agriculture is to become a priority target of the Weah government.
Launching his frst National Agriculture Fair in Suakoko District, Bong County, President Weah was greeted with tumultuous joy as citizens lined the pathways, streets and avenues of Bong County to greet their president, happy in the knowledge that he is about to embark on a major national project that would take Liberia from the doldrums of economic stagnation to the pinnacles of self-sustainable rebirth.
At the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) Compound in Suakoko, Bong County, the Liberian leader wasted no time in disclosing that his government, in collaboration with the World Bank, has made available 16 million United States dollars as funding to private sector farming in Liberia Agriculture sector, adding that it includes large scale and smallholders farming.
President Weah said his government’s primary development target is to improve the agriculture sector’s performance for increased food and income security with the view of achieving overall economic growth and reducing poverty in the country.
Moreover, President George M. Weah encouraged all farmer organizations in the country to adopt the business approach to agriculture through, among others, organizing farmers around ‘cooperative’, which he said could contribute sustainably towards agriculture commercialization.
President Weah further disclosed the establishment of a technical committee comprising the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Justice and other agencies that would work along with banks to insure qualifications, allocations and disbursement of funds to agriculture institutions.
President Weah said his government is making all efforts to enable the country to graduate from primary-level industry.
According to him, success of such development depends on the performance of all stakeholders in the agriculture sector.
The Liberian leader also urged development partners to support technological development, infrastructure and value addition for enterprises with potential for growth like fisheries and livestock rather than concentrating on the software support and traditional enterprises.
Said President Weah: “When I say we should eat what we grow, and grow what we eat, I mean it. We must utilize our soil.”
Tour of Facilities
Touring the pavilions at the Agriculture Fair, President Weah said he was impressed with the quality of exhibits and congratulated exhibitors for proving their capacity and innovation
The current National Agriculture Fair 2021 is being held under the theme “Investing in Agriculture for Prosperity & Development”, which President Weah said, was relevant to the commercialization drive initiated by his government to spur private sector growth and development.
Giving the overview of the National Agriculture Fair 2021, Dr George Vorkpor, Deputy Minister for Research and Extension at the Ministry of Agriculture said the fair is intended for farmers to showcase their plant-based products –food, drinks and cosmetics –locally produced to be exported.
Deputy Minister Vorkpor said Liberia’s Agriculture Law, enacted in the 1970s, mandates the Ministry of Agriculture to hold an annual National Agricultural Fair to showcase agriculture produce grown in the country.
He said 13 years ago the first Fair was held in 2008 in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, 70 km west of the Liberian capital, Monrovia, adding that it was a donor-driven fair.
Also speaking, Nimba County Electoral District#2 Representative Prince O. Tokpah, chairman of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries committee pledged the House of Representative commitment to improving the Agriculture sector in the country.
Expanding further of the outcome of his government’s agriculture interventions, President Weah authorized the Minister of Agriculture, Madam Jeanine Cooper, to begin “the process of first providing a database of all those that are in the areas of rice, cocoa, palm oil and rubber.
”President Weah subsequently set up a technical committee that will include the ministries of Agriculture, Finance and Development Planning, Commerce, State for Presidential Affairs, Justice as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The Agriculture Trade Fair has been a landmark event showcasing never before known talents of Liberian agriculturists and entrepreneurs in the field who are ready to change the story of their country.
Emboldening Agriculture Spirit of a Physically Challenged
Going from the theories of yesteryears about agriculture production to the practicality of the sector, President Weah has begun to enthuse those willing to get involved, let alone those already in it.
From his personal pockets, he is putting smiles on some already, and a physically challenged in Bong County is just one of them.
The physically challenged was identified publicly as the biggest local cassava producer. The President, upon hearing this, drew out $10,000 cash award and landed it into his hand.
The Ministry of Agriculture had given him an agro processing machine to enhanced his production.
President Weah effusively praised his Agriculture Minister. Pundits are of the opinion President Weah and his government are on the right path to turn things around, especially with the global economic pinch being experienced in Liberia wherein expectations hardly meet reality.
Mingling with ordinary Liberians
The President is also using the trip to mingle with ordinary Liberians, sharing jokes with folks, holding down all meetings.
Though he has gone deep inside Liberia as he is expected, the time in Bong County has been hassling and bustling.
Bong being one of the food security belt of the country, and in fact where the country’s agricultural scientific eye is situated, the President and delegation are inundated with activities bordering dominantly on food production, food security and generally agricultural production.
But while he’s talking agriculture with the people, the President is at the same time holding town hall meetings from town to town, lending ears more to what the people have got to say about things that matter to them and their communities.
The locals’ problems are overwhelming as they are diverse. The elderly are talking about infrastructure development; the women are talking about farming and domestic violence; the youth are talking about vocational education and employment; the civil society groups are talking human rights, rape and other sexual gender-based issues; the physically challenged are talking about economic empowerment. Every segment of the local population has got its own unique problems.
Patiently and coolly, the President would sit back and listen, smiling and at times frowning upon hearing some startling revelations.
One starling and welcoming revelation was about a physically challenged local. At the recently concluded Agriculture Fair held in GARI, nearly Gbarnga, he was introduced to the President and entourage as the highest producer of cassava.
Upon hearing that story, the President dipped into his purse and handed to the awardee whopping $10,000.