Official Neglect Leads To Liberia’s Food Insecurity

By Prof. Wollor E. Topor, PhD


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

August 4, 2016

                  



 
 
 
 

A warning from Dr. Kilo – Resident Representative of the African Development Bank (AfDB)-  that ‘Liberia invest seriously in agriculture’ reported in the Daily Observer’s  Monday edition of August 1, 2016  is not the first time this has been said to the Madam Ellen ‘s government. The author listed many attempts which the Daily Observer alerted Liberian Government. 

I being the consultant on many agricultural studies, the need to pay immediate attention to food security for Liberia was revealed and discussed in “Understanding Diversity: A Study of Livelihoods and Forest Landscapes in Liberia” (Lebbie , et al., 2009);  “Priorities and Challenges of Adaptation to the Impacts of Climate Change – A Focus on the Liberian Agricultural Sector” (Topor, 2010); “Agricultural Innovations for Climate Change Adaptation and Food Security in West Africa: The Case of Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia” (Agwu, et al., 2011); and “Large-Scale Land  Acquisitions in Liberia, Analysis 39” (Buntzel and  Topor, 2013)  and “Taking the land without Encumbrance” (Buntzel  and Topor, 2013). Upon a careful review and participation in the above mentioned studies, I have tried to relate it to our situation and raised concerns about the current food insecurity and placed importance on income growth, expressed nutrition interventions and investment in health, water as well as education (formal and informal). Has the government listened?

One would expect a booming agricultural sector in a country rich with vast fertile lands, plenty of sunshine, abundant rivers, rich with semi-trainedlabor,but this seems to be not the case in Liberia. The reason is just straightforward ‘Apparent Official Neglect” of the agricultural sector. If the government had the ‘Political will,’ because as the saying goes, ‘where there is a will there is way, the “will” would have focused on the agricultural sector which employs a third of the labor force. It is cheaper to create jobs in agriculture than in other sectors, but just because this government does not intend to have “inclusive growth” it never thought on pushing for the sector's development. Can you image agricultural workers are the poorest in the labor sector?. Any agrarian nation that pays attention to its agriculture in the rural area should have growth inclusive.

Despite being an agricultural country, Liberia has developed an unsustainable dependence on imported rice to ensure sufficient national stocks. The Liberian government is very much aware what could happen when it “plays” with Liberians staple –Rice. This is why the Ellen’s government is making sure that there is an ‘artificial stable’ market for untenable import of rice, for that matter all basic consumable goods. This temporary means of importation of food is undermining Liberia’s agricultural development and although slowly but surely come to an end. The question is when and how are we to address this stagnant agricultural productivity of this country? Our successive Ministers of Agriculture under Ma Ellen government have had the best and most prestigious educational background in agriculture, so what has gone wrong?
Any government’s success is measured by the degree of its accomplishments against its commitments. There are periodic Cabinet retreats, and from my understanding, these retreats are meant to take stock of the performance of Government ministries and public corporations in order to strategize about accelerating the implementation. Could the Ministry of Agriculture say its expected annual production targets set in major food crops like rice and cassava for 2016? For example, what’s the number of ordinary farmers per hectares per metric tons of rice and cassava does the Ministry predicts for 2016? Matching these targets with the desirable extension services should bring about the change in farmers’ attitude, knowledge and skill and their usage of availed resources the right way.
Agricultural transformation usually does not occur by mere slogans and piece-meal approaches. It is an integrated approach. At the very least, government intervention pragmatic approach will be required to provide the public goods needed for agricultural transformation. Among the most pressing public goods are innovation and dissemination of new technologies, including traditional crops, especially rice. Other public goods include gravity irrigation and rural roads; yet due diligence must be exercised to ensure only efficient projects are identified and implemented bounded by time and evaluated thereafter.
The Way to Go!
This is an open secret; there are a lot more improvements needed before the Liberia’s agricultural sector achieves its full potential. For instance:

  1. The Ministry of Agriculture has to revisit its main mandates for which it was created as the government agency to promote agriculture and related activities like fisheries. Has it been able to provide the necessary policy framework, help direct public investment, form partnership towns, clans, chiefdoms, or only County Agriculture Officers (CAO)?  Has the Ministry been able to provide the support services vital enough to make agriculture and agro-based enterprises profitable with a ripple-effect on development benefits to the poor, more so to the rural sectors? 
  2. Has the Ministry persuaded investments in agriculture that promote area-based development; by this we mean, ensuring that each area in Liberia is prioritized through specific development programs, with such, there will no longer be a problem of getting left behind. Each aspect will be tapped, leading to inclusive agricultural growth and eventually, economic growth and development.
  3. Prioritizing investments that can increase and sustain productivity; develop the skills of workers in the agricultural sector, a lot of opportunities will be opened that can ensure growth–‘infant industries’. For example, rubber, coffee and cocoa covering their entire supply chains from production to marketing.
  4. Ensure well-functioning irrigation systems and an efficient transport infrastructure; hardly has there been an irrigation system in Liberia. Studies have shown that irrigation system as an input can increase productivity significantly. Hydropower generated from dams has been used to provide a store of water for agriculture, industrial uses, household uses for thousands of years. Servicing as the socio-economic consultant Mt Coffee Hydro Power, I asked Dr. Robert Zwahlen of Pöyry Energy Ltd that was responsible for the ‘Impact Assessment and Resettlement Action Plan for the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant’ why this exercise does not include irrigation? This is what Dr Zwahlen said” Mt. Coffee is not a new scheme, but the rehabilitation of an existing one which, unfortunately, was destroyed. It was originally conceived as a hydropower plant, and that it still is’. Meaning Liberian negotiators did not see the need to add irrigation for food self-sufficiency but looked at the same plant that was built by President Tubman in the 60s. If an investment in a developed irrigation system is prioritized, it will make a huge difference.
  5. Invest in programs that will increase resilience to climate risks and disasters, as well as pests and diseases necessary for Liberia’s agriculture. In our studies on agricultural sector as it relates to Investment and Financial Flow (I&FF) for adaptive measures in connection to climate change for sustainable economic growth and development of Liberia, we documented the increase in heat intensity and erratic rainfall patterns which are the symptoms of climate change and have an adverse effect on crop yields and livestock production beyond the impacts expected. The case in point is the pests (Achaea catocaloides Genue) or “caterpillar” outbreak in Liberia. Farmers used to just face off with pests and diseases, but as years passed by, climate change has contributed to the burden that hinders growth in the sector.The poor farmers are the most affected by the erratic weather pattern and other effects of climate change. Rehabilitation also takes time so developing resiliency is best.Farmers should be taught on the various ways they can mitigate and reduce climate risks.
  6. Promote greater private sector investments and support, connection with the private sector can be made through agro-business schemes such as contract farming. Food and Agriculture Organization defines contract farming as "agricultural production carried out according to an agreement between a buyer and farmers." Conditions then are set between the two parties regarding certain aspects such as quantity of crops to be produced. Therefore, those multi-national companies should enter into some agreement of this nature to reduce the friction between the local people and the companies.  The FAO added that both farmers and private institutions can benefit from contract farming. The farmers are guaranteed buyers of a specific quantity of their crops. Meanwhile, the private institution will then have adequate supply at agreed-upon price.



About The Author: Dr. Wollor E. Topor is Dean, College of Agriculture and Food Science, William V. S. Tubman University,
Harper, Maryland County, Liberia


Kandajabab Zoebohn Zoedjallah
One would have thought that for the past eleven unbroken years VP Josrph Nyuma Boakai has been "Big Boy 2 he would have come up with such policies as these proffeted by Prof. Topor, but no; he Boakai and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf were busy with Togba Nah Tipoteh deceiving the Liberian people and the international community on their so call poverty reduction
Scam! VP Boakai, you were in the padt Minister of Agriculture for many years! So all you have been engaged with and still engaged with is helping yourself ad the president's son Robert Sirleaf who raked 2.5 billion?


Kandajabab Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 02:29PM, 2016/08/05.
Sylvester moses
CEK, alias whatever,

There exits no evidence that VP Joseph Bockai is the so - called "Big Boy 2, and to fan that lie should be considered defamatory. And with all her faults, Ebu, President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf is a far better than President King. As for Tipoteh, he will one day be recognized as one of the greatest sons of Liberia.
Sylvester moses at 07:06AM, 2016/08/06.
Sylvester moses
I meant "exists" though you wouldn't know any better, Ebu.
Sylvester moses at 08:38AM, 2016/08/06.
sylvester moses
Charles Ebu King, alias Kandajabab Zoebohn Zoedjallah,

Considering the records your grandfather, President Charles D. B King, had set (Guinness book for electoral fraud; investigation by the League of Nation for profiteering from slave labor; and impeachment for corruption and depravity), you should be the last to criticise President Sirleaf or Joseph Bockai. CDB King's legacy of chasm between urban, and rural Liberia, especially in the southeastern portion of the country, has yet to be bridged.

Interestingly, you seem to not care a lot how I discovered your identity behind that alias. Well, after security profession, the next love is literary criticism, which few great teachers taught me. Needless to say, with that subject, textual scrutiny is a given. Ebu, as an author, your style is like a fingerprint or footprint. For example, mechanics of writing such as word choices, punctuation, sentence structure, syntax, and tone are clues to the trained eye.

For a voracious writer like you, former CID boss, comparing comments under your real name C.E. King, and the silly alias - to maintain anonymity - was easy, and fun. If you want proof, sue me in court. Of course, there would be no holds barred to corroborate my analysis with computer expert opinion, clueless narcissistic Ebu.

sylvester moses at 11:01AM, 2016/08/07.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah
Sylvester Moses,

I AM NOT CHARLES EBU KING! DO NOT USES ME AS AN ALIAS FOR YOUR CHARLES EBU KING! IF YOU WANT TO MAKE CLAIMS FOR OR AGAINST ME, DIRECT SAME TO ME..Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah alone!!!! PLEASE!!!! Do not take me for nor associate me with your Charles EBU KING!

I am WARNING YOU for the last time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The next time you associate me with or use me as an alias for your Charles Ebu King, I shall deal with you in so ruthless a manner that you will never forget!

I have repeatedly told you that I do not know nor have I ever interacted with this Charles Ebu King, but you have refused to take heed.

AGAIN, I am NOT Charles Ebu King. You know your Charles Ebu King, and from all implications we believe this your Charles Ebu King knows you! So, whenever you believe or feel you should say whatever you want to to him, you should direct same to him and him alone! AND NOT ME!

Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah at 01:54AM, 2016/08/09.
sylvester moses
C.E.King, or alias Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah,

C.E. King or alias Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah.

The impudence to have mentioned me thus, "What the young one does not know, he ASKS the elder (ie. Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoedjallah) instead of behaving as Freetown Sylvester Moses, who writes UNTRUTHS dangerously believing that no one is in town" in your comment to an article I hadn't even read then, and now issuing threats against me?

Forget it, what you've failed to achieve through logical arguments, to cower me, can't be actualized by crazy threats. Arrogant silly Ebu, I'm not one of the 1970's puppets that put you on a pedestal.



sylvester moses at 12:12PM, 2016/08/09.
Dennis Jah
Brilliant! Thanks Dr. Torpoh. To answer your question "no, the Liberian government is not listening." All she does to call attention is simply reshuffle a few more square pegs in round holes every now and then. Ellen with her trial and error method in governance has been a disappointment for many and for the few of us, all we can say is "Ii told you so."
Dennis Jah at 08:06AM, 2016/08/26.

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