Liberia’s military has been asked to form a robust agricultural battalion to find ways to solve the country’s collective food insecurity problem, and by extension, create jobs for civilians and agriculture students.
In a keynote speech Wednesday, 3 February at the 64th Armed Forces Day Symposium at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) president Cllr. Taiwan Gongloe said the military can play a lead role in solving the country’s food insecurity problem.
Despite having a rich soil that is said to have great potential for farming purposes, Liberia heavily relies on food import, including its staple, rice. Millions of dollars are said to be used annually for rice import alone.
However, Cllr TiawonGongloe believes that given the level of discipline that exists in the military, using the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) to intervene in the agriculture sector would help Liberia overcome its food insecurity problem.
“The level of discipline that exists in the military makes it ideal for leading our national effort to overcome our food insecurity problem,” Cllr. Gongloe suggests.
In support of this recommendation, the Liberian legal luminary also calls on the legislature here to make adequate budgetary appropriation so as to strengthen the Armed Forces of Liberia. Cllr. Gongloe further states that the Liberian Government must also provide more incentives for entrepreneurs that want to venture into food production.
He urges the government to use the process of eminent domain, saying “The Government of Liberia should identify huge parcels of farmland in each county and make them available to the military to produce food for Liberia.” He declares that “As a nation, we cannot make progress, if we cannot produce most of the food that we eat.”
The LNBA Boss notes that the engagement of the military in food production will also provide opportunities for civilian jobs for agricultural school students, graduates and those with skills from T-Vet programs in the operation and repairs of farming machines, and other logistical and administrative services.
“It can be done, once there is a political will,” he maintains.
The symposium brought together panelists mostly from the government, diplomatic sector, civil society and also international partners to discuss the topic: “Enhancing Military and Legislative Interaction in a Democracy: Liberia in Perspective”.
Giving a brief narrative of his temporary, but, quite interesting time with the AFL through some observations about its past and present history, Cllr. Gongloe says the AFL has transcended from a brutal force to an incrementally disciplined and professional force over the years.
“…,Let me quickly say that my general observation and the observations of many critical Liberian thinkers that I have spoken to is that the armed forces, for more than a decade, has been incrementally disciplined and more professional that it is now trusted by the public more than the paramilitary forces,” the legal pundit states.
“Today, we are all proud of the performance of the men and women of the Armed Forces as part of the United Nations Peace-keeping Force in Mali,” he adds.
While focusing on the theme of the symposium, he urges the military to stay out of politics and let the politicians make whatever mistake they can make, noting instead that the military can play a leading role to reverse the increasing level of food insecurity in the country.
“The military with the support of the legislature should expand the scope of the military’s role of providing for our collective security, beyond protecting us from invasions from across our borders to our collective security from hunger,” he emphasizes. The symposium brought together members from the various security institutions including the AFL and experts to discuss topics for the development of the Armed Forces of Liberia.
It was held under the theme: The Military in Sustaining Democracy. The knowledge gained from the symposium helps the AFL in answering questions and to solve problems.
Madam Moima Briggs Mensah, Representative, Bong County; Commissioner BoakaiDukuly (Proxy for Counselor Davidetta Brown Lansanah, Chairperson, National Elections Commission); Madam Cecelia N. Flomo, Acting Executive Director, Governance Commission; Mr. Harris FumbahTarnue, Principal, Booker Washington Institute (BWI) and Counselor Cyril Jones, CEO, Jones and Jones Law Firm, served as discussants at the symposium.
Other discussants include Lieutenant Colonel Matt Alden, SDO/ DATT US Embassy and Mr. Jimmy W. Smith, Representative, District 2, Montserrado County. Mr. Julius Jeh served as the moderator.