GBARNGA: On the occasion marking National Agriculture Fair at the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) in Bong County, Liberian Leader, President George Weah has stressed that his government is committed and willing to work with farmers in meeting their needs for greater agriculture productivity. The latest Agriculture Fair is the first of its kind since the incumbency of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) administration of President Weah.
President Weah noted that Liberia as one of the oldest independent nations in Africa, should now avoid relying heavily on other nations for food security.
“In collaboration with the world bank, our partner, we are providing US$16 million in funding to support private sector involved with farming in Liberia,” the President announced.
President Weah said the program would capture large scale and smallholder farmers.
The President has thus authorized the Minister of Agriculture, Madam Jeanine Cooper, to begin what he calls “the process of first providing database of all those in the areas of rice, cocoa, palm oil and rubber.”
He said he would subsequently set up a technical committee that will include the ministries of Agriculture, Finance and Development Planning, Commerce and Industry, State for Presidential Affairs, Justice as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Their task, according to the President, would be to work with the banks to ensure qualification, allocation and disbursement of the stipulated funds for the agricultural sector.
President Weah stressed: “When I say we should eat what we grow, and grow what we eat, I mean it. We must utilize our soil.”
Besides the funding the Liberian leader announced, he also said government is collaborating with the World Bank to ensure that farmers have access to low interest rate lending from local banks.
“It is time for Liberians to take ownership of producing more food and as a result we will begin to decrease our dependency on imported food,” he stressed.
The President noted that the display of Liberia-made products at the National Agriculture Fair provided sufficient and reasonable conviction why government must invest in farmers to collectively promote the agriculture sector and become potential exporters of Liberian products on the global market.
President Weah, however, bemoaned the lack of productivity and progress in the agriculture sector over the last decades, describing this situation as the most deplorable situation he has seen in years.
The President said it was now time that Liberians change the dynamics, emphasizing that the situation would remain the same if nothing substantially practical is done to improve on the progress made in recent months.
Meanwhile, as President Weah embarked on his first nation-wide tour since his incumbency as President in 2018 January, he is said to be thanking Liberians for affording him the opportunity to lead for a six-year of term.
Our staff writer who is traveling with the President observed that he’s using the time to spread his “Back to the Soil” campaign by inspiring the citizenry to focus on agriculture production towards poverty alleviation.
During his first stop Salala Bong County, President Weah elaborately shared his agriculture vision with rural dwellers, mainly farmers, emphasizing the need for self-sufficiency in food production to bolster the Liberian economy and decrease the country’s dependency on imported food.
The President said Liberians do have the capacity to grow what they eat and to eat what they grow but need to overcome complacency and idleness to achieve food security. He made a passionate clarion call for all Liberians to go back to the soil to grow their own food, if they will surmount poverty and food insecurity.
Speaking earlier, Agriculture Minister Jennie Cooper thanked the farmers for coming out to showcase their produce adding that the move is the beginning of a vibrant sector.
At the Agriculture fair which is taking place at the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) in Bong County, after 13 years the farmers brought out several local produced including, Cassava, Plantain, Pepper and many other vegetables produce to be sold to the Presidential entourage.
Minister Cooper mentioned that her primary objective, as head of the sector, is to see Liberia becomes a food sufficient nation.
Other partners joining in for the program were the European Union and American Embassy near Monrovia among others.
For his part, US Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy, lauded the Liberian government for identifying agriculture as the best way to feed the nation.
He pledged the US government support through USAID in making sure that Liberia achieve in the areas of Agriculture.