FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

Liberia: President Sirleaf Urges Liberians to Get Back to the Soil

Monrovia — President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has encouraged Liberians to go back to the soil and engage in agriculture and food production as the rewards for doing these things are immense. "Though farming is hard work, when you work hard and you can see the results of your labor, it makes you feel proud of yourself," the Liberian leader said.

According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf made the statement at the weekend when she was invited to begin the harvesting of three hectares swamp rice (Narica L-19) farm undertaken by the Community of Hope in Zubah Town, Duport Road.

President Sirleaf, herself a farmer, said Liberians can try to fight hunger in many ways, including supporting farmers, providing funding, through technical assistance; but most especially, by themselves getting back to the soil. She challenged Liberians to use the uninhabited parcels of land around their communities to make small gardens and farms as this will help us (Liberians) address the problem of food sufficiency.

President Sirleaf applauded the Community of Hope Agriculture Project (CHAP) for continuing to grow. She said many times people come up with brilliant ideas and begin projects but they never last. "CHAP has been doing this year after year, so let's commend them for that," she urged the audience, adding that sustainability is continuing to improve and expand on what one does to make it bigger and better; noting that this is how people excel and become successful.

She pointed out that there are many Liberians who stand around, criticize and find fault while there are others who are quietly working and they are the ones making progress, moving ahead. They are the ones that will make Liberia a better country. Making remarks earlier, Agriculture Minister, Dr. Florence Chenoweth praised CHAP as one of the Ministry's success stories, but noted that they are not there yet.

She noted that the introduction of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) is one of the many methods the Ministry has employed in the country to increase rice production and CHAP has been the institution that has been using this method very successfully.

Montserrado County District No. 4 Representative Henry B. Fahnbulleh, stating his role at the level of the National Legislature, promised that once a bill comes to them regarding anything that has to do with Agriculture he will advocate that it is passed immediately.

"I'm not on the House's Committee on Agriculture, but I'm on that of leadership. It is our responsibility to provide leadership in areas where we know our people's lives will be enhanced and improved and agriculture is the surest way that we can ensure the stability of this country. It is our duty to make sure that we support her vision and those in the front yard so that all of us here will be self-sufficient in food production," he said.

For his part, a representative of the Farmer's Union Network reiterated that agriculture strengthens and sustains democracy because a country that is unable to feed itself may likely bow to the dictates of anyone that will feed her people. "Why farmers are so important," he quizzed, "is because they produce food to feed the nation."

He registered the Network's thanks and appreciation to President Sirleaf and her government for its continued support to this sector of the economy and called on all the farmers to continue the work they're doing to produce food until they reach the point of mass production where it's available and affordable.

Also speaking on behalf of the Women Farmers, Ms. Mariama Wilson appealed to President Sirleaf for assistance. "We need help and your cooperation if you want us to fight hunger in this country."

The representative of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP) assured CHAP of its support in all its endeavors. "Our intervention in Grand Gedeh and River Gee is not the end. We will support you in the western region, the eastern region and all of our counties of intervention," he said.

The Community of Hope Agriculture Project (CHAP), a faith-based entity established in 2008, is working in urban and rural communities with the aim at training local farmers, women and youth and to provide them with basic farming tools and equipment to increase their productivity and provide them with job opportunities. CHAP, the development arm of Abide in the Vine Fellowship Incorporated, which seeks to reduce hunger in the country.

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