FAO in Liberia

Bridging an Inter-generational Gap in Tumutu?


A Chronicle of Benedict, One of the Eighteen FAO-Supported Farmers whose efforts were directly recognized by President George Weah at the National Agricultural Fair in Suakoko

Benedict M. Kerkula, 33, like his seventeen khaki jacket-wearing colleagues, beamed with a smile on the evening of Saturday, February 13th, when President George Manneh Weah announced the purchase of all produce displayed on Booth #61, one of the two stacked by farmers working under the technical aegis of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). A whooping One Thousand United States Dollars had been dashed their way – and this kept Benedict in awe. In conversations on the margins of the Fair, Benedict had expressed his joy for the following reasons:

  • The Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) through the UN trio of FAO, ILO, and WFP and technical backstopping support of the government, had afforded him – and tens of young people in Tumutu – an opportunity to jumpstart and enhance a career in agriculture – a source of sustainable livelihood;


  • Also, he had made history by being amongst young and aged farmers recognized by the President of the Republic, having participated in the country’s first agricultural fair in thirteen years;


  • In addition to the improved level of social cohesion attained amongst tens of youth in Tumutu Town, an inter-generational gap, for him, was being bridged in agriculture.

On the lattermost, the most striking of Ben’s three points – we found that his Tumutu colleague at the Fair was Mr. Winston A.T. Addy, 60, an agricultural trainer, specialized in vegetable production at the government-owned Tumutu Agricultural Vocational Training Center (TAVTC). Some of his other colleagues from the youth group were as young as 14 and 16 years old.

Having explored his perspective, the rest of this narrative, fleshes out on each of the three points:

An Opportunity to Enhance a Career in Agriculture?

Tumutu is a small town in Salala District, Bong County nearing Nyanforla and is five minutes away from the boundary with Margibi County, riding from the Bong side. The town enrolled as one of the six communities for the PBF-funded, joint FAO-ILO-WFP implemented project Sustaining Peace and Improving Social Cohesion through the Promotion of Rural Employment Opportunities for Youth in Conflict-Prone Areas in Liberia. In addition to the soft skills supplied by ILO in entrepreneurship, WFP develops, under this project, the capacity of youth and key community stakeholders in community-based participatory planning. For the livelihood aspects, capacity is being provided by FAO (inputs, technology, infrastructure and trainings) in improved vegetable production, value addition and marketing in addition to rice and poultry underway in the other communities. 

Aspiring to cultivate five hectares of high-value vegetables, Tumutu youths are yet challenged with stable water supply, given the delayed construction of the irrigation system. This, however, did not stop the ongoing production which had seen tomatoes, onions, cabbage, lettuce, cucumber, sweet and hot pepper cultivated. It certainly is not going to hinder the gradual expansion – as temporary measures are being employed to keep the task going.

Presidential Recognition – is there any impetus to push further?

Benedict believes that alike the case of farmers from Nimba and Lofa, more recognition could be attained if his group perseveres. Reflecting on the urge of the UN Resident Coordinator that attainment of about eight of the seventeen SDGs, the President’s call for smallholders to give their best towards agricultural development. Especially goal 2 – rest on the shoulders of a conglomerate of stakeholders including small-scale producers, Tumutu, with their undertakings, could transition into an agri-business center, despite its limitations (population, land space, educational opportunities and market linkages).

Any element of deepening social cohesion?

Tumutu, like its host administrative district of Salala, and the neighboring city of Totota, has been listed as a conflict-prone community in Bong County deserving of peacebuilding interventions. Further to the 2017 study upon which this PBF-funded project was initiated, ILO-led 2020 scoping exercise corroborates findings that limited access to land, limited participation in decision-making and lack of sustainable livelihood are amongst key drivers of conflict.

With Benedict now wielding influence on tens of youths and leading them into managing the project, they gather on three weekdays, with increase in frequency during key aspects of production – like nursery and land preparation. This has improved their overall relations and deepened the extent to which they share and care about the poli-socio-economic issues common to them. As any other group, they discuss project-related as well as other life-facing challenges and together explore solutions – even if the search to find them is yet prolonged.

On the flipside, agricultural technicians, like Addy, prior to the launch of the PBF project, were not easily seen working with youthful members of the Tumutu Town. On occasions of providing technical support, they had been limited to the hours dedicated to such cause – and the nature of said interaction remained that of a teacher-student one.

Now, Tumutu youths, and their elderly, technically inclined neighbors from the AVTC – Addy and colleagues – are now co-workers. Co-workers striving to ensure that the name Tumutu thrives with the project even after more than two spells of shifts in enterprise – starting with conceptualization of rice, poultry and now vegetable – and site of cultivation – earmarking the AVTC, then the Town, and now back to the AVTC.

Glancing at the ratio of young to old farmers in Liberia, such non-consanguineous intergenerational collaboration, for agricultural production, should be rare in a typical rural locale, making it deserving of echo.  

Looking beyond Suakoko

Whilst Benedict (and Addy) may not have been like other FAO-supported colleagues from Say No to Hunger in Nimba and Mayour River in Lofa who were announced and welcomed to a dignitary-filled platform with cheers and applause, as part of recognition, and then presented with farming implements, his first glare at such a historic national event, caused by the direct appreciation from the President, leaves him to wonder, even deeper, what road may lie ahead of this newly fostered career path in agriculture.

And this, he says, is owed to the government, FAO, its partners, and the Peacebuilding Fund.