President George Weah has announced that the agricultural sector is about to benefit a US$16 million package for aggressive and motivational support to farmers and potential farmers across the country. Mr. Weah made the statement during observance of the national Agriculture Fair at the Central Agriculture and Research Institute (CARI) in Bong County.
On Friday, the grounds of the CARI was a scene of display of food products, poultry, and other made in Liberia products, as farmers from the 15 political sub-divisions of Liberia were at hand to showcase their products from farms and gardens. Agriculture companies, both local and international non-government organizations grace the historic day.
Liberia has not celebrated agriculture fair since 2008, during the early first term of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The event was witnessed by international guests, including the United States Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy, and Laurent Delahousse, Head of Delegation and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the European Union to Liberia.
The Fair under the theme: “Eat what you grow and grow what you eat” has generated more encouraging and immediate drastic push for the sector to improve under President Weah. The President’s message is intended to inspire the citizenry to focus on agriculture production towards poverty alleviation.
President Weah 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.
He said Liberians have the capacity to grow what they eat and to eat what they grow but need to overcome complacency and idleness in achieving food security.He called on the citizenry to return to the soil to grow enough own food if Liberia should surmount poverty and food insecurity.
He assured Liberians that his government is committed and willing to working with farmers in meeting their needs for greater agriculture productivity.
“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 a database of all those in the areas of rice, cocoa, palm oil and rubber.”
President Weah said he will 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).
Their task would be to work with the banks to ensure qualification, allocation and disbursement of the stipulated funds.The President 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 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.”
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.
However, he bemoaned the lack of productivity and progress in the agriculture sector over past decades, describing the situation as the most deplorable he has seen in years.
The President said it was high time Liberians changed the dynamics, emphasizing that the situation would remain the same if nothing substantially practical was done to improve on progress made in recent months.