Can Ellen Jump-start Agriculture?

first_imgThe President’s open admission in her Annual Message Monday that only five percent of the nation’s arable landmass is being cultivated for agriculture is a very sad, very serious, very disturbing admission; but it is a wakeup call.Ever since the Tubman administration, in the early 1950s with the help of our American friends, established the Government Farm in Suakoko in an attempt to introduce modern agriculture in Liberia, we should have by now made significant progress in Liberian farming.The Government Farm, now the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI), undertook a lot of research that helped to improve farming around the country. It also established the Agricultural Extension Service that deployed Extension Agents in all the then five counties– Montserrado, Grand Bassa, Sinoe, Grand Cape Mount and Maryland–and the three Provinces–Central, Western and Eastern.  When the new counties — Bong, Lofa, Nimba and Grand Gedeh — were created in 1964, at least one extension agent was deployed to each.  But these were clearly not enough.  In the early 1960s, for example, when Voinjama was still the headquarters of the Western Province, there was only one extension agent there–a young Cuttington Agriculture graduate named Leopold Bundoo.  Yet Lofa was the largest Province.  When it became a county in 1964 it was the largest county, until it was divided into two, with the creation of Gbarpolu County a few years ago.  Yet Lofa, thanks to the seriousness, energy and love for farming on the part of its people, remains the nation’s leading breadbasket, followed by Bong, Nimba, Margibi and Montserrado Counties.We narrate all this history to say one thing: we as a government and people have not taken agriculture seriously enough.  That is why we have not made much progress since the early 1950s.  The government itself did not take agriculture seriously.  Mr. Bundoo, the agri-extension agent, was never given a cutlass, or a bicycle, yet he was expected to render extension services in the Western Province.Not much has changed. That is why this newspaper has always said editorially that the GOL has not taken agriculture seriously; that is why it has  failed to organize agriculture, as it is organized, say, in Kenya.But let us quickly add: we must stop this nonsense that our failure in agriculture, as in many other areas, is because Liberia was never colonized.  When are we going to start thanking God that, unlike all other African countries except Ethiopia, we were never colonized?  That, it seems to us, is a blessing.  It means that whatever we have, we have achieved by our own bootstraps.  Is that not something to be proud of?There is only ONE THING lacking in Liberia: seriousness on the part of the people AND their government.  If all the people in all the counties were as serious as the Lofa people, especially when it comes to agriculture, Liberia by now would be self sufficient in food.  With only one agri-extension agent in the 1960s, Lofa was still able to feed the nation. A man in Foya District alone, named Paramount Chief Tamba Taylor, taught his people, the Kissi, to farm. Today, long after he was no longer Paramount Chief, Foya is one of the country’s most productive areas. They grow their own rice, vegetables and meat. And if encouraged, Foya alone could grow a good portion of all the rice Liberians need, and all the meat, too, since their area is ideal for raising livestock, especially cattle, goats and sheep.But why hasn’t the government seized upon this ONE distinct opportunity to move agriculture forward?  Because we are not serious about our business.  That is why we are always begging other people for help – all kinds of help.  The Bible says, “Seest thou a [person] diligent about his/her business;? He shall stand before kings, and not before mean men.”So what is the President thinking now?  Is she prepared to muster the SERIOUSNESS to move agriculture forward in this country, and get ALL her lieutenants to do the same?Liberia is one of the few countries we know of where 100% of the land is arable.  Why on earth are we still hungry and food dependent?  It is a shame; and we better start removing this shame from our faces by getting SERIOUS.This is the President’s challenge, and the challenge of every one of us.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Schwarzenegger wants rail bond put on hold

first_imgSACRAMENTO – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is asking lawmakers to scrap a $9.95 billion high-speed rail bond measure already on the November ballot to clear the way for his massive, $222.6 billion public works program. “We could not afford the entire package of infrastructure (in the governor’s plan) if we did the $10 billion for high-speed rail,” state Finance Director Mike Genest said Friday. “We did not see it being affordable in a 10-year cycle.” He called high-speed rail “a visionary idea (that’s) kind of far in the future.” Democratic supporters of high-speed rail said they would try to put some funding for the project in whatever public works bond measure emerges from the Legislature. Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, has a $12.8 billion bond bill that would remove the high-speed rail bond measure from the November ballot but also provide $1 billion that could be used to begin buying right-of-way for the trains. The Assembly approved a bill last year by Assemblyman Alberto Torrico, D-Fremont, that would move the bond measure to the November 2008 ballot, but that bill stalled in the Senate. Torrico said he supports high-speed rail despite his efforts to delay the bond vote. He said he will work “very diligently” to get high-speed rail money included in any public works bond package that lawmakers approve this year. “We’re talking about investing $222 billion in infrastructure. This is the best time to talk about including high-speed rail as part of that investment,” he said. Genest said the governor wasn’t proposing that lawmakers eliminate the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the nine-member board that’s overseeing planning for the system. Instead, he said the administration hopes the board can devise another way of paying for it. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson The governor’s plan includes $68.8 billion in new bond measures to help pay for highway projects, flood control, transit, jails, prisons, new schools and courthouse improvements – but no money for the so-called bullet trains. The high-speed rail bond would provide $9 billion to help pay for a line between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the first leg of a 700-mile system linking the state’s major cities with trains running at speeds of more than 200 mph. It also would provide $950 million for improvements to light rail and conventional inner-city passenger systems. Supporters tout high-speed rail as a much-needed alternative to crowded freeways and jammed airports as the state’s population increases over the next 20 years. But it’s had difficulty getting rolling. Lawmakers approved the $9.95 billion bond measure in 2002 and put it on the November 2004 ballot, then decided the state faced more pressing needs and bumped the bonds back to November 2006. last_img read more