The issue of farm to market road continues to serve as major challenge in rural Liberia as the situation keeps undermining the progress of local farmers.Agriculturists in other Countries are among the World richest according to a 2018 Herdsy report.Herdsy is an arm of the next generation of farming technology based in the United Kingdom
However, in Liberia, it seems to be different as a result of the huge challenge that has immersed farmers which has affected their livelihood and they are only constraint to keep converting from communal farming to subsistence farming.
Besides the lack of working tools or modern technology or finance to argument the needed efforts of poor farmers in Liberia, another major challenge remains farm to market roads which is believed to be the cause of the decrease in production of commodities in Liberia.
Our Bong County correspondent’s five months survey has established that many people in rural Liberia have downplayed agriculture activities as a result of the lack of little or no road network in many farming areas in Bong County.
Many citizens who were engaged in farming before the civil unrest have disengaged on grounds that whenever they gather the produce from the farm, it remains with them and spoil due to bad road network and long distances to the markets.
The citizens told Journalist that before the war, they were not experiencing the challenges of bad road because traders from neighboring Guinea, Sierra Leone and Cote’ D’ Viore used to travel from town to town to buy their local produce including pepper, garden egg and cocoa but since the war, those traders are no longer traveling to purchase produce like in the past and that has led many people to disengage communal farming activities and have now ventured into subsistence farming or other activities like bike riding, waiter marketing amongst others.
One of the commercial towns in Bong County that is heavily challenged with road issue is Gbonota. Linked with the cocoa rich Gbapolu, Gbonota is in addition to its proximity to Kpatawee water-fall as well as Sanoyea huge forest.The town is also the central market ground for the surrounding towns and villages where rural farmers converge to trade their produce.One of the prominent Liberian farmers and former Senator of Bong County, Richard Flomo has approximately 50 acres of coffee plantation in the same proximity.
The coffee has more or less been partially abandoned due to bad road connection which has also contributed to low profitable marketing.Sanoyea District is further known for food and cash crops production including swamp rice, cassava, vegetables, oil plm, ruber, etc. the community has huge body of water (river) that sets the borders between Bong and Gbarpolu counties and it is also used for fishing purposes.
The road challenge is currently having serious implications on a local farming group under the banner “Kwapaigeh Farmers’ Cooperative Society (KFCS).
KFCS is an Agriculture production and marketing cooperative and is one of the farmers’ groups that is registered to carry on business as a Local Buying Agent (LBA) in Sanoyea District. With the chain command market structure of Sanoyea District agriculture (cocoa, coffee, rubber) economy and one of the organized societies, KFCS represents a courageous pace not only to give farmers a voice but more significantly, an enduring framework of access to better markets. For the most part, this remains the cooperative’s unique selling proposition in the intense trade and value chain of the Sanoyea general agriculture economy.
An Executive Member of the Cooperative Mr. Dennis Flomotokpah told our Bong County Correspondent that road connection is the only major problem they are currently faced with as farmers in the area.
Mr. Flomotokpah said as Cooperative, they do not only sit and await farmers to bring their local produce for buying but they also go to them for the produce. However the road condition in the area is making the profit of their transaction to reduce drastically.
“Sometimes we get little or no profit on the goods we buy from farmers because whenever we get the goods, we will have to transport it on our heads due to the bad road. So if we do not carry everything in time to store them in the warehouse, it gets damage” he adds.
He said as cooperative, they are eager to help improve Liberia’s agriculture sector but that will be done if the roads in Sannoyea are connected to create the free movement of goods and services.
“The KFCS can be a very strong contributing factor to Liberia’s agriculture sector because we will start to buy and store more produce which will ensure the availability of wanted produce on the market even when it is not the season for such [roduce” he maintains.
According to him, if roads in the area are well paved, their cooperative can start to supply super markets which will put to an end the importation of some produce that are currently being sole in various supermarkets in Liberia.
Ma-Gorma Kangai age 46 and the mother of five said they do not need money from anyone to provide the needs of their families; all they need is good road network.
“We really want help, even if the government cannot come now because we know the government has lot of things to do but we need the intervention of Nongovernmental organization (NGO) like USAID, UNDP, or PACS to help connect our roads because when they are paved, we will have the courage to keep making farm to send our children to school and feed our household” she adds.
She said Agriculture is important to national development adding that if the government of President George M. Weah must succeed to the fullest, agriculture needs to be given every necessary attention.
Our Bong County Correspondent who has toured the district for more than five months says Gbotota, in addition to it beingS used as a centralize point for the collection and trading of locally produced commodities, it can further be developed into ecotourism given its natural beauties.
The concept of Trade-to Trade can highly be recommended in this community. Our Correspondent also say that with the strengthening of the KFCS, not only on the issue of road connectivity but the aspect of promoting production, improving processing for better marketability can also help improve Bong County efforts to the agriculture sector.
This would include but not limited to increasing the size of farmlands, provision of improved planting materials, reduce postharvest loses, improve beans quality, and upgrade storage facilities by building simple and cost effective storages for Farmers.
Bong County prior to the war was considered as the one of the bread baskets next to neighboring Lofa County but due to the many challenges, many of the people living in the rural parts of the county who are also on fertile land usually travel to Gbarnga and other nearby towns to buy imported rice, chicken, fishes amongst others.
By Joseph Titus Yekeryan in Bong County