1. Liberia: Community support helps farmers rebuild following caterpillar invasion (by Prince Collins, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Monrovia, Liberia)

| February 1, 2010

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Tapia Molley will never forget that fateful day when caterpillars invaded his farm. He remembers watching the caterpillars eating his cabbages. He cried at the sight of his crops being destroyed. It seemed that all his effort was in vain.

It has been one year since caterpillars invaded Liberia’s Bong County. They devoured crops, contaminated water sources, and took over buildings. Villagers fled and the government declared a state of emergency.

It was a heavy blow to farmers in this important agricultural area. But they have recovered, finding hope and replanting their fields.

“Thank God we are moving ahead with our lives since the incident,” Mr. Molley said. His neighbours helped him prepare his land. The cabbages are growing again. Mr. Molley is proud to say that his crop is valued at $5,000.

Annie Yarkpawolo is another farmer grateful for the help of neighbours. She is a single mother of five children. Ms. Yarkpawolo said she almost gave up on life when the caterpillars took over her sweet potato field. But she later found courage. With the support of other villagers, she replanted her potatoes. She expects to harvest 20 bags of potatoes in February. These will provide food for her family and planting materials for next season.

Terry Tamba actually expanded his planting following the caterpillar invasion. He admits it was frustrating to start from square one. But he got a loan from a local agricultural bank. He and his family replanted their pepper crop. This time, it is even larger. He is happy to see the peppers grow. The proceeds from this crop will feed his family and send his two children to school.

Food grown in Bong County is not only important for locals, but for other counties as well. Much of Liberia’s cassava, eddoes, plantains, bananas, and potatoes are grown here. Farming is a livelihood and a way of life.

Lorpu Kollie says no amount of caterpillars could prevent her from farming. She says: “I love doing it. This is what my parents taught me to do.” She was troubled when caterpillars devoured her rice. But she put it behind her and redoubled her efforts. Many people from Bong County relied on emergency food relief when they were displaced from their homes. Now, Ms. Kollie looks forward to harvesting and eating her own rice.

The Liberian government has set up a task force to determine how to prevent future caterpillar invasions. They are awaiting the task force’s report.