As important as every vocation seeking to meaningfully contribute to the socio-economic development processes of the nation remains, the postbellum period continues to remind nation-builders of fundamental steps that must be pursued, no matter how haphazardly they may be, in gradually overcoming the situation that has obtained through natural and man-made conditions.
Without chronologically delving into how the agricultural sector has come to be revived since periods of the past debacle, at least there are innumerable frontiers that have had to withstand the odds in restoring hope to our many traditional and modern farmers throughout the country in spite areas of their involvement.
The Caholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Lutheran World Service (LWS), for example, became few of the international non-governmental organizations that immediately came to the aid of poor rural farmers by helping to cultivate the Liberian soil as means to promoting self-sustainability.
Later witnessing several others joining the ranks, with CARITAS been at its best, buttressed by the provision of seeds and implements by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at the consent of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), at least whilst bulk of the citizens had largely depended on imported food commodities, improved varieties of rice coupled with the growing of potato greens, cassava and cassava leaf, okra, palava sauce, potatoes and eddoes were already in process.
It is over two decades since these productive steps were initialized by local and international partners, with the hope that by now, Liberia would have been placed in an unshakable position of production, aside the priority given the rubber sector that has equally been savior to keeping the nation on even keel out of tax collections.
Whilst several Liberians have since been placed at the helm of the Ministry of Agriculture, with Dr. Roland Massaquoi remembered to have encouraged gradual agricultural production as means to stabilizing the nation, his removal therefrom that subsequently resulted to his active engagement in the reconstruction of roads in the Kokoya and other areas, coupled with his involvement into community development initiatives cannot be easily sent through the windows as often done in many circles.
Howbeit and as strategically designed, Dr. Chris Toe, one-time Deputy Managing Director for Administration at the Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC) who had served as senior administrator at one of America’s highest institution of learning, had to be recalled to occupy the post of Minister of Agriculture.
Challenging, though, it had appeared, with Dr. Toe pulling every local and international strings to ensure that the nation was placed on course in satisfying the desires of weary-of-war-farmers, rice seeds distribution became a priority in view of shortage experienced nationwide.
Although with seeds distribution begun in the southeastern province, where Dr. Toe hails, allowing few to have miscalculated the actions and not linking same with strategic designs as should be upheld, the few years of devotion thereat could not however permit continuity out of politicization that the learned administrator is not a stranger, however bringing to the fore a former Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Florence Chenoweth, who this columnist prefers to refer to as the “Tractor Girl” of the early 1970s.
By then a true witness to agricultural power in the nation, having been groomed under the late Hon. James T. Philips, Jr. whilst in the employ of the Liberia Agricultural Land Development and Mechanization Corporation (AGRIMECO) --- do we necessarily need to make now Payensville City Corporation Manager Wilbert Alphonso Clarke laugh his guts? --- normalization of agricultural production throughout the country became ascertained as the majority may have wished.
It is however over three years since Dr. Chenoweth ascended to her old post as Agriculture Minister, with continuity in the progress begun by Dr. Chris Toe ongoing, howbeit the priority given the southeastern region involving the establishment of oil palm and rubber plantations.
Contributive to the socio-economic development healing of the entire nation, in spite serious contentions over the manner and form in which agreements were reached with government, the nation’s staple, RICE, must now be attended to in gradually removing the stigma of dependency upon other nations to have the population fed.
Void of sectionalism that can be theoretically and practically proven, the counties of Lofa, Bong and Nimba have indisputably been regarded as bread-baskets when it comes to the production of the commodity.
Not in the seat of the Minister of Agriculture and can in no way become speculative other than been actual, the three counties have been left in oblivion in the very short years of the tenure of the Unity Party-led administration, resulting to the continuing involvement of poor rural farmers into subsistence farming that will take the nation nowhere.
Accepted that against the backdrop of Liberians having used the high illiteracy rate in the country as alibi to orchestrating the many evils experienced, including the past debacle, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has therefore had to prioritize education as means to attracting an appreciable proportion of youths and adults to the sector in redemption of their respective communities and thus saving the nation.
More interestingly, whilst candid observations of the fact have been made by environmentalists and scientific researchers, the budget of government has not in actual reflected the true desires of bulk of the population that resides upcountry, considering agricultural production as their daily chore.
Against this backdrop and with the columnist remaining ever au courant with the reality over the many decades, one can only plead with the honorable members of the House of Legislature to see reason in paying more attention to the agricultural sector, minimal as the budget may reflect, by adding the bits and pieces chopped from others that may appear purely white-collar thereto.
In the wake of such advocacy, however, it is time that our Extension and Research officers be properly stationed and not view the provision of vehicles to drive in city centers and other areas with symbols as achieving the national goals, moreso when cash crops must equally be given attention as medium to generating needed revenue, in spite prices on the world market. Find the bushes!