Gbarnga, Bong County — Former Vice President Joseph Boakai says Liberia must graduate from being a donor-driven country if it is to succeed as a nation.
"The churches are beggar churches, the mosque are beggar mosques," he said. "Everybody is begging when God has given us everything that we need in this country to develop, but we want to beg. We think that someone else has everything that we need when we have everything to develop."
Boakai made the statement last week Thursday at the Gbanga City Hall during a Community Media Forum focusing on public funding for agriculture, impact and challenges.
The Liberia Media Development Initiative (LMDI) facilitated the forum in collaboration with the Liberia Media Development program implemented by Internews with funding from USAID.
The forum was one of four aimed at engaging citizens and the media in a conversation about the impact and challenges of government funding under the Liberia Media Budget Monitoring for Accountability (LMBMA). The other three forums addressed education, health and infrastructure.
Boakai and Franklin Cassell, a professor at the Bong County Technical College, told a gathering of 200 people about how Liberia generated millions of dollars from the agriculture sector.
Boakai recalled how the former Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC) generated over $50 million a year from the export of oil palm, cocoa and coffee. Liberia, he said, produced enough chickens and eggs to supply the market. Some of the major poultry producers in the 1970s and 1980s included Baker Farm, Sangai Farm, Bright Farm and other small farmers.
"Farmers were getting money then, farmers were sending their children to school, but all of that is not happening now," Boakai said.
Boakai said Liberians should stop depending on the Ministry of Agriculture to produce food for them. The ministry's role, he said, is to develop agriculture policy.
Liberia, he said, cannot develop the agriculture sector without good roads.
"With good roads, farmers will be healthier, they can do things faster and increase productivity," he said.
Mr. Cassell said the $5.3 million earmarked for the agriculture sector is "inadequate for the enormous task the ministry of Agriculture faces. "
He named the task as the unavailability of improved planting materials, including crops, rubber, cocoa, high yielding of crops and the farmers' lack of technical knowledge in the cultivation of these crops.
Cassel said the government must think about raising the level of the small sustain farmers to a level where they can engage in commercial farming.
He also named post-harvest as one of the constraints farmers are facing due to bad road.