10 October 2018

Liberia: Must Liberia Always Be At the Receiving End?

The logic is clear that whenever an individual reaches a stage of maturity, that person takes his or her own responsibility and relate to others in interdependent ways since no man is an island. Interdependence is a reciprocal relation between individuals, entities, groups or nations (American English Dictionary). In instances where a mature individual continues to depend on his or her parents for care and protection, that individual is often described as a carefree, indolent (lazy) and irresponsible person.

The above premise draws us to Liberia's situation as the oldest independent republic on the African continent still relying on charity to exist. During our national Independence Day celebrations, we Liberians boast with pride, of our country's long years of existence in Africa. We are proud of the fact that our country has enjoyed long years of independence and inspired colonized African nations to gain independence likewise.

Liberians usually speak with pride of their nation's endowment with a rich trove of natural resources such as iron ore, diamonds, gold, rainforest and fertile soil that lends to food production.

Alas, this 171 year-old country, endowed with such valuable resources, is yet to secure its footing and space on the global development agenda. Instead Liberia remains entrenched among the most corrupt countries in Africa and one of the least in human and infrastructural development. Worse still, Liberians still rely heavily on food aid from other countries despite the fertile soil and weather conditions characterized by equal periods of abundant sunshine and rainfall.

According to World Development Index report, Liberia is the third poorest country in Africa with an employment rate of 15%, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita $900, and 85% of the population living below $1.00 a day.

The United Nations Human Development report puts Liberia in sixth place among the world's poorest countries; yet the country has all the natural and mineral resources that other similarly poor countries do not have.

Shamelessly, the Liberian Government boasts of signing a US$2.7 million food assistance agreement with Japan, a country that is poorly endowed with natural resources and which is faced with deadly environmental challenges and has a population of 127,103,522 people. According to a release from the Liberian Foreign Ministry, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said the Government of Japan will provide the $2.7 million worth of rice to Liberia to be sold at a minimum cost in an effort to alleviate hunger in the country.

This is not the first time Japan has provided food assistance to Liberia. During the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration, Japan rendered similar gestures to Liberia by providing the Ministry of Agriculture some seed rice to boost rice production.

Whether or not the intended goal of self-sufficiency was accomplished under the Florence Chenoweth Administration at the Ministry of Agriculture is another story.

There was also a time that the Government of Japan provided petroleum products to be sold to enhance food security efforts. The Japanese Government is currently carrying on a US$100 million road project on the Somalia Drive Road, while at the same time it is providing grants to non-governmental organizations headed by Liberians to implement agricultural projects.

Interdependence, as emphasized earlier, implies exchanging assistance between and among partners in times of need, but Liberia as an independent state has continued to always be at the receiving end. Japan, which provided $2.7 million food assistance few days ago, recently faced a disastrous earthquake last month wherein a lot of Japanese lost their lives and homes.

What did Liberia contribute to address the humanitarian crisis its bilateral partner faced?

We thought to flag this situation to remind our government that, instead of being a perennial recipient of donor largesse, we should strive towards self-sufficiency in food production to give others also. It is quite dishonorable for a country that has turned 171 years to depend on others for almost everything. Our government, the key decision maker in this country, must realize that relying on charity is self-enslavement and granting of its own blessings to others. This reminds us of the philosopher who said "Charity, if you have the means, is a personal choice, but charity which is expected or compelled is simply a polite word for slavery."

There are countries in Africa that are relying on tourism, culture, fisheries and arts to generate income to support their economies. South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda are some countries generating income from tourism on the continent. The natural geographical features and wildlife that those countries have, Liberia possesses in even more bespoke fashion. Unlike most of these mentioned countries which are faced with challenges such as drought, floods and poor soils, Liberia has adequate sunshine and rainfall and good soil conditions that serve to enhance food production. Why do we still find pleasure in receiving charity without producing to give to others?

Let our government begin now to support local farmers by providing them loans, improve seeds and tools and extension services to provide expert advice to local farmers in a bid to encourage citizens to prioritize locally produced food.

In this way, we will be helping to lift your citizens out of poverty, making Liberia self-sufficient in food production and capacitating ourselves to be a giver and not always a receiver.

There is a wise saying that goes "Blessed is the hand that giveth than the hand that receiveth." Being always at the receiving end is a reproach; therefore, our leaders should do all they can to ensure that Liberia graduates from reliance on charity.

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