Ministry of Agriculture, Internal Affairs Sign MOU for Communal Farming
Monrovia – The Ministries of Agriculture and Internal Affairs have entered into a memorandum of understanding to reduce hunger and poverty and create job opportunities for the economic empowerment of especially the rural population.
Report by Edwin Genoway, Jr., [email protected]
The purpose of the MOU is to determine the general framework of the collaboration or cooperation between Agriculture and Internal Affairs Ministries.
The MOU is also aimed at encouraging and promoting the establishment of mutually beneficial relations between the two ministries for effective engagement of communities and people for sustained and competitive agricultural value chains development.
Since the Internal Affairs Ministry is responsible for local governance and traditional chiefs and elders in Liberia, the Ministry of Agriculture is of the conviction that partnering with Internal Affairs will help it achieve its goal – the locals will be educated about growing their own food
The MOU will promote the production of nutrient-rich maize, vegetable crops and livestock, processing, storage, transportation, marketing and distribution through Communal Farming Development Projects.
The main objective is to enhance capacities in the 15 counties through communal farming development by strengthening the counties for sustainable improvement of Agricultural areas of competitive advantage to each county.
It will build the capacity of community people to do “Farming as a Business”, transforming subsistence farming into commercial farming – adoption and upscale of improved technologies; Management and business skills development support to community people for effective management of communal farming operations among others, according to the MOU.
Speaking at the signing ceremony Thursday, January 23, at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Agriculture Minister Dr. Mogana Flomo said Communal Farming has proven to be the most effective and efficient way by which rural communities can bind their efforts into concerted action to cultivate these food crops for self-reliant and economic empowerment.
He said rice, maize, cassava, and vegetables are crops of vital importance to the diet of Liberians as they are consumed daily by each Liberian household.
He described the crops as sources of household income. “They are sources of households’ incomes, sources for rural dwellers and community livelihoods due to high market potentials and production of these crops which are traditional habits of especially the rural people,” he said.
The Agriculture Ministry boss noted that rice represents 33 percent of Liberians food consumption accounting for about 50 percent of adult caloric intake with an annual per capital consumption estimated at 133kg. It is widely grown almost in every region in Liberia due to reliable and favorable climatic condition.
Vegetables are one of Liberia’s profitable crops. Its side-dish accompanies nearly every Liberian dish; unfortunately, production levels are very low and quality remains substandard.
The Agriculture Minister further said that vegetables provide the most important source of the micronutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals essential for a balanced and healthy diet.
He noted that they are also a major source of cash income for smallholder farmers.
He disclosed that, however, field experience has shown that 55 percent of production is lost due to inappropriate post-harvest management.
He said problems also arise from unsafe vegetable production practices such as the misuse of pesticides, use of grey water in production and in vegetable processing, and ineffective and unhygienic storage of vegetables that may encourage bacterial contamination.
The Agriculture Minister further said these challenges are the reasons why Internal Affairs and Agriculture Ministries intend to collaborate in the area of Communal Farming through technical and material supports, to get citizens involved in the cultivation, consumption, sale and preservation of these food crops.
Making remarks at the event, Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf called on the legislature for special consideration for funding in the next budget to further this important farming initiative.
He said that the program is good in that it contributes to national reconciliation, poverty alleviation, and a vehicular tool for decentralization.
He commended the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations for embracing Liberia’s communal farming project and their willingness to assist the ministries plan maize on a pilot basis in at least two counties.
He said the MOU will seek the establishment of Internal Affairs and Agriculture technical team for communal farming collaboration, saying, it will also seek an office space at the Internal Affairs and the availability of land for communal farming among others.
“We will begin communal farming in the 15 counties of Liberia that will assist in reducing poverty and hunger; we will support the rehabilitation of appropriate production, processing and storage facilities in counties to ensure that farmers’ produce are not wasted or spoiled,” he said.
Speaking earlier, the Country Representative of FAO in Liberia, Mariatou Njie, said the initiative by the two ministries is dear to the heart of the FAO’s office in Liberia.
Ms. Njie said the FAO will continue to support the Agriculture Ministry to fight hunger in Liberia.
“We stand ready to collaborate for the initiative to yield good result, we will work very closely with the Ministry of Agriculture for this initiative to be accomplished,” she disclosed.
The signing ceremony at the Ministry of Internal Affairs attracted the attention of several lawmakers and government officials as well as traditional leaders.
Others included Bong County Superintendent Esther Walker, Chief Zanzan Karwor, House Committee Chair on Agriculture Representative Prince Tokpa, House Committee Chair on Internal Affairs Manah Bishop Johnson, Senator Edward Dagoseh, Senate Committee Chair on Agriculture and Senator Gbleh-Bo Brown, Senate Committee Chair on Internal Affairs among others.