Liberia: Dear Liberians, Rice Is Not Our Problem – Our Mindset Is…

The uncomfortable truth staring at us right in our faces is that, we will never develop and rescue our poverty strapped country if we continue importing, instead of growing the rice we eat!

It is indeed tragic, that even with the tripled rice price in the last month, our food security conversations are still heavily focused on ASKING when a few “selected” business-persons will purchase more rice from China or India to sell to us, and when more pepper will come from Guinea, or tomatoes from Nigeria. These are the WRONG conversations to have especially when we are blessed with vast agricultural lands, fertile soil, and talented hardworking people. Sadly, our country is on its knees begging for assistance because of our failure to learn from the past (let us remember the rice riots in the 1970’s), or learn from other countries (who transformed their economies by investing in their agriculture sector).

The truth of the matter is, if we want to take millions of Liberians out of poverty; if we want to reduce the unemployment rate in our country; decrease crime in our communities; if we want to better feed our children as they go to school, we must collectively as a Nation, change the current status of our agricultural sector and develop ‘out of the box solutions’ for our people. To do so, we must ask ourselves the RIGHT questions. Firstly, how can we increase the rate of rice production in our country? Secondly, how can we modernize our farms in the rural areas so that we can produce more high quality rice faster? Thirdly, how can we re-direct the over 200 million dollars that we currently spend on importing rice, towards properly training, incentivizing and equipping our farmers? Finally, how can Liberia become self-sufficient and create food security in our staple food? Those are the questions we should be asking!

There is only one-way to fix our Agriculture; we must start growing what we eat!

Currently, our agricultural sector still utilizes outdated methods of food production with very little to no mechanized farming. We also do not use proper irrigation as we are over dependent on erratic rainfall patterns and we still do not apply any modern methods to ensure soil or crop cultivation. In comparison, as the rest of the world transitions to mechanized and scientific farming, we continue to practice our most applied skill – waiting for others to grow for us, what we should be growing for ourselves.

This must stop now if we are to progress as a nation.

All countries around the world have three ways of providing food to its citizenry. Self-production, import and food reserves. In our Nation, we essentially have one way, that is import. This means the majority of our people do not have access to affordable, quality, sufficient and nutritious food. In essence, it means that the very basics of a healthy functioning society are not being met because food security should be the right of every Liberian, and not a privilege.

We need to build well-funded, modern and mechanized food production zones throughout our fifteen counties, to make sure that we eat what we grow – and better yet, produce enough to the point where we can also export what we grow. Imagine a Liberia where we produce enough rice to feed every single Liberian. Imagine the amount of jobs that would create, and food security that would provide. Imagine the cheap prices of rice that will ensure our students go to bed with full stomachs. Imagine us not waiting for rice from Asia, but producing rice in Bassa, Lofa, Bong, Grand Gedeh and Nimba. In short, imagine A New Liberia.

We need to re – engineer and shift our agricultural policies and leadership at every level – the presidency, the legislature, and our districts. Our collective clarion call across all working Government agencies should be that investing in agriculture production is the ONLY solution to address Liberia’s long-term challenges. Better-fed students mean smarter and more attentive students. Better-fed citizens are healthier with a longer life expectancy. Farms that are more productive mean more capital to expand our rural road networks. In conclusion, and without a doubt, a focus on agriculture means a more robust and thriving National economy.

Dr. Clarence Moniba, Contributing Writer

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