Vice President Boakai Calls for Collaboration to Fight Hunger

Thursday, 17th February 2011

Monrovia, Liberia - Liberia’s Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, Sr., says the food challenges the world faces today requires all to cooperate more closely than ever before to reverse hunger.  

He observed that although the epicenter of the threat of hunger lies in countries distant from Liberia, the threat of hunger has the potential of reaching Liberian shores due to our global inter-connectivity,

“Given that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is increasingly coalescing, sharing resources and operating as one world advocate-united against hunger, it is incumbent upon all of us to reach out and focus our efforts, laser-like, on every measure to end hunger,” Vice President Boakai told participants on Wednesday, February 16 at the climax of the 2010 World Food Day held in Kakata, Margibi County.

“As we climax the celebration of World Food day under the theme: ’United Against Hunger’, and work to achieve a hunger-free society, we should do so with a sense of urgency-hunger is directly in our sight,” he added.

The Liberian Vice President said the government was concerned about the projected 70 percent increase in the number of hungry people that will be on the planet by 2050 and reports that 41 percent of Liberians go to bed hungry everyday.

He said it was also disheartening that 42% of Liberian children are suffering from stunted growth and that the country’s reliance on the world market for food, in particular rice, continues to rise astronomically.”

Vice President Boakai observed that Liberia was at critical cross-roads of either facing the future or returning to humanitarian emergencies of historical proportions which it experienced during the years of conflict, and called on all stakeholders to “do their part in building a system of stakeholders’ response that will prevent us from losing ground to hunger.”

He called for the development and refinement of best practices that seek to empower local farmers and cooperatives in the attainment of a hunger-free Liberia.

The Liberian Vice President called for the development of the skills of agriculturists and engineers capable of constructing and maintaining roads and bridges in wet tropical regions at affordable costs using local materials.

He called attention to a recent integrated report produced by the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs and the UNDP which concluded that the Liberian government would be better off giving priority to agriculture production and infrastructure development as a way out of poverty.  
 
 Vice President Boakai used the occasion to shower praises on the outgoing FAO Representative Dr. Winfred Hammond, who he said “has contributed so much to our current food security program.” “Together, we have worked intensively to build a strong positive relationship, one that had delivered benefits to Liberia and especially our people,” he said of Dr. Hammond.

In remarks, Agriculture Minister Dr. Florence Chenoweth said due to the passion the President and Vice President have for agriculture, the country has made immense strides in agriculture since it came to power in 2006.

She observed that less than five years ago the country had no rice seedlings to plant because “we completely decimated our germ plasma”, but boasted that now the country is fully self-sufficient in seed rice and will no longer rely on the West Africa Rice Development Agency (WARDA) for seeds.

“Not only do we have certified seeds, we have our own foundation seeds and have trained farmers to handle these seeds,” she added.

Highlighting the government’s achievements in agriculture further, Madam Chenoweth said while the government was importing all the 330,000 tons of rice Liberians consumed five years ago, the country is now produces 200,000 tons of the rice consumed in the country.

According to Dr. Chenoweth, the government has also made good mark in improving the capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture and training agriculturists, noting “When we took over five years ago, the Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) had only one scientist, today we have seven,” she added to a tumultuous applause.

Madam Chenoweth said it was disheartening that 41 percent of Liberians still go to bed hungry, adding, “This worries us and we need to change it, even though it was 59 percent when we took over”.

The Agriculture Minister said another success scored by the government is that the Ministry of Agriculture is now fully decentralized with regional-offices in 13 of the 15 political sub-divisions of the country.

At the program, the Ministry of Agriculture honored the outgoing FAO Resident Representative for his sterling contributions to post-war Liberia’s agriculture development program.

In his acceptance remarks, Dr. Hammond expressed thanks and appreciation to Dr. Chenoweth for the honor bestowed upon him. He also expressed thanks and appreciation to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph N. Boakai for the support they accorded him during his tour of duty in Liberia.