20 August 2014

Liberia: Ebola Outbreak Affects Agriculture in Lofa County

Photo: Unicef
Special material was developed to support Liberian community outreach activities to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

Salayea District, Lofa County — A partial look at Salayea, one of several districts in Lofa County where the virus has affected farming activity

The outbreak of the Ebola disease in Liberia has greatly disturbed farming activities in Salayea District and other parts of Lofa County as able men and women die daily and most of the Non Governmental Organizations in the county that used to operate in the communities have folded up as a result of panic.

These and other issues were disclosed on FrontPageAfrica Saturday by the Community Chairman in Beyan's Town, Salayea District and other stakeholders during a dialogue with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) fact finding team on the analysis of the Ebola outbreak and its impact on agricultural productivity.

The Beyan Town Community Chairman, Moses Kesssele, explained that the farming calendar has largely been interrupted by the outbreak as up till now farmers have not even completed brushing their farms which is in contrast with previous years when most farmers would have finished planting.

Kesssele stated that as a result of the death rate, the district has witnessed multiple migrations of families during this period than ever, and most of them are youth. "Every recorded death in a community leads to the migration of many households as a result of the stigma or the fear that they might catch the virus" he explained.

It was also disclosed that the major Non Governmental Organizations that used to provide technical and financial support for farmers and traders, especially women in the county have folded up and the few left has restricted their activities in Zorzor, Salayea, Voinjama and other areas because of panic.

He presumed that the migrated families will not engage in farming activities because they are not entitled to land in their new settlements, and this according to him, will have to threaten productivity and food security in the near future.

He added that the county leadership's ban on public gathering has also got a negative effect on agriculture because most of the farmers that usually embark on large scale farming hire the services of youth clubs to do their brushing as mechanized farming is not common in the county.

It can be recalled that the county in compliance with the government's mandate, resolved in banning public gathering in the wake of the outbreak because many medical practitioners have confirmed that the virus can be transferred from an infected person to another through body contact.

In an interview with the county superintendent, he confirmed that agricultural activities in the county are at a standstill as most farmers have abandoned their farming activities because of the Ebola panic.

Superintendent George Dunor explained that July to August marks the period for the harvesting of Cocoa but such cannot be done if the farms are not properly brushed and that the business partners that usually support the farmers for the brushing activities with the hope of buying the products are not forthcoming because of the Ebola panic.

"It is usually through the pre-finance from our business partners that we buy food and hire people to brush our Cocoa Plantations before harvesting, but we have seen no sign of that" he lamented.

The Ebola outbreak started in Liberia in March and it is usually predicted by many experts to last for three to six months as experienced in other countries, but FrontPage Africa's conversation with the Lofa superintendent sensed no optimism that the outbreak will last within the expected period as cases increase on a daily basis.

"We can only confirm that if cases stop coming for three weeks, but we are still recording cases on a daily basis" he stated.

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