Chief Bennie Juluflay (left) with other farmers

Local Chiefs in Nimba and Maryland Counties Praise FAO and Ministry of Agriculture

31/01/2014

Local chiefs in Nimba and Maryland Counties are expressing delight over the quality of agricultural inputs and level of technical support provided them by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), and local implementing partners that led to a recognizable rise in rice production in their areas.

FAO and the Government of Liberia through the MoA, in collaboration with local authorities and implementing partners, in early 2013 started assisting 2,500 individual rice farmers and 1,500 individual vegetable growers, under the UN Central Emergency Response Fund-supported project called “Improved food security and nutrition for Ivorian refugees and host families in Liberia”.

The project, located in Nimba, Grand Gedeh, and Maryland Counties, aims to improve the food and nutritional status of Ivorian refugees and Liberian host grow the food they eat and raise income from selling the surplus. 

Chief George Diah, 51, is town chief of Larpea 2, Nimba County. “I am seriously happy with the work they are doing, it’s bringing development in the community, tools, seeds, and other things were brought in to help us grow our food.” He said he himself was a famer and a member of the FAO/MoA-supported Lorzuweah Farmer Based Organization which plans to transform itself into a cooperative to better serve the community. “The swamp is big, 30 acres, all of which we hope to put under cultivation next year when we multiply the rice seeds they gave us.” 

Bennie Juluflay, 59, heads Juluken No. 1 as General Town Chief, in Barrobo District, Marland County. A farmer and father of 11 children, he recalled the bad days when hunger was rife all around his township and adjoining areas. “The refugees came and life was hard with a lot of hunger. So the government people, FAO, SARA (implementing partner) came with seeds, tools, and encouraged us to use the new seeds. WFP gave us food for work.” Pointing to vast expanse of rice field under harvest he said: “Now we have food. We will save seed rice for next year.” Chief Bennie said the project also played a crucial role in the lives of the 1,057 residents of Juluken No. 1: “This farm work has helped unite the people of the town, bringing us together in meetings, discussing our common development problems, and planning how to develop into a cooperative.”

He disclosed that as a result of the success of the swamp farm this year, they have resolved to back off from the upland slash and burn farming. “The upland farming is difficult. It’s embarrassing us with bush hogs and ground hogs disturbing the crops. But in the swamp these animals cannot easily eat our labor because there is water to stop them from reaching the rice. So we are now focused more on swamp farming.”

He has one appeal: “FAO and government should still help us and not abandon us. We want to be more focused and sustainable. One help like this is not enough.”

Thompson Dio, 50, Town Chief of Gbalaken in Maryland County and father of 13 children, was gracious: “This program is good for our community because we never had money to buy seeds and tools. We have 54 members including 15 widows who are benefiting, and WFP food for work made us strong to work. We are united and will use the reserved seeds and tools to carry on next year. We say thanks to you people.”

Meanwhile, the District Agriculture Coordinator for Karluway 1 and 2 Districts with oversight responsibility for Barrobo District, John B. Zaza, lauded the farmers “for this level of hard work done here” and the FAO for the “good partnership.” He described FAO as “a team member working with MoA for the same result.” He urged the farmers to continue on the path of lowland farming for double cropping and increased yields.

FAO’s Maryland County Field Technician Moses Wonsiah said the involvement of the local authorities including town chiefs was essential to making the farms produce well. “We are here often together with chiefs, MoA, SARA our implementing partner to provide the required technical support, and it worked out fine. Come next year, hunger should be less severe compared to this year.”