sustainable agriculture in LiberiaAgriculture is the backbone of any economy, but this is particularly true in Liberia. Over 80 percent of Liberians live in poverty, earning less than $2 per day. They rely heavily and primarily on small-scale subsistence farming for their income, nutrition, food and survival.

After decades of internal conflict, sustainable agriculture in Liberia was left unattended by policy and programs, thus very little positive change occurred. Farmlands shrunk, water resources were mismanaged and the distribution and production of food suffered. Liberia was also one of the countries hit the hardest by the Ebola virus, which took a toll on its agriculture.

Set of Challenges

A number of challenges have prevented sustainable agriculture in Liberia. From poor pest management and  lack of technology to the limited use of fertilizer and modern-day cultivation methods, Liberia lacks good quality farm inputs. Furthermore, due to poor road networks and high transport costs, there is little incentive to produce food beyond subsistence levels.

The West Africa Agricultural Productivity Project

The West Africa Agricultural Productivity Project (WAAPP-Liberia) is a regional project supported by the World Bank and Japanese Government. It has helped fund the resuscitation of the Central Agricultural Research Institute, which is Liberia’s only agricultural research institute. Badly damaged during the country’s civil wars, this institute will support young Liberian scientists who have come to serve Liberia’s Ministry of Agriculture.

This project, funded by the World Bank, is looking to support sustainable agriculture in Liberia by progressing research in technology, production of adaptive seed adaptive and regulatory policy.

Climate Change Adaptation Agriculture Project

Since climate change has such a huge impact on agriculture, the Climate Change Adaptation Agriculture Project aims to increase the resilience of poor, agriculturally-dependent communities and decrease the vulnerability of the agricultural sector to climate change in Liberia. One of its major accomplishments has been addressing the deforestation in Liberia that has led to unsustainable agriculture practices such as charcoal/fuelwood production for energy in cooking and drying, logging practices and unsustainable mining practices.

In collaboration with the Center for Sustainable Energy Technology and Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia, this project has piloted production and use of energy efficient cookstoves and ovens for drying fish in Montserrado and Grand Cape Mount County.

These two projects are just some of the ways sustainable agriculture in Liberia is slowly but surely healing from years of turmoil and misuse. These efforts can create a better Liberia for both the land and its people.

– Kailey Brennan

Photo: Flickr

farming in liberia
Liberia’s war against hunger has become stagnant. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, however, has a new and innovative battle tactic: one that requires getting your hands dirty.

Addressing the nation early last month, Johnson-Sirleaf, a farmer herself, encouraged her people to return to the soil. She called for collective action, urging all citizens to be proactive in the fight against hunger. She advocated for farm funding and support, but mostly for citizens to get outside and transform uninhabited lands within their communities into small gardens and farms. Farming in Liberia could help fight the epidemic of hunger the country has faced.

Liberia has endured a long and grisly history marked by colonialism and civil war. In 2005, after years of military rule and prolonged conflict, the country hosted its first democratic elections, installing Johnson-Sirleaf as the first elected female head of state in Africa. The country, however, has remained fraught by years of political and economic instability. According to WFP, it is classified as both a least-developed nation and a low-income food-deficit country. Among other issues, food poverty and food insecurity are particularly high. In 2012, the government-led Comprehensive Food Security and Nutrition Survey found that every fifth household in Liberia is food insecure.

Amid turmoil and despair, Johnson-Sirleaf has remained committed to her nation. She has recently launched the System of Rice Intensification, a new method of rice planting that will increase rice production and further help to provide food to local people. Developed in Madagascar by the French Jesuit Henri de Laulanie, SRI is an innovation that changes the conventional practices of rice growing. It consists of producing rice with less seeds, water and fertilizers in a soil rich in organic matter and well ventilated. In practice, this method will produce more rice with less material, therefore feeding more people at a lower cost.

Johnson-Sirleaf also has support from The Community of Hope Agricultural Project (CHAP.) Established in 2008, CHAP is a faith-based entity that seeks to reduce hunger and provide jobs throughout Liberia by training local farmers, youth and women, and providing them with basic farm tools and equipment to increase their productivity. With tools and ground support, Johnson-Sirleaf’s vision will soon be materialized.

A representative of the Farmer’s Union Network claims that agriculture is the most fundamental component of democracy. Without an adequate and sizable food supply, a country cannot sustain its population and must surrender a piece of its independence to foreign influences. By encouraging sustainability through individual efforts and government funding, Liberia is on its way to self-sufficiency and a stable republic.

— Samantha Scheetz

Sources: WAAPP Liberia, Africa, World Food Programme, allAfrica
Photo: Telegraph