Liberia: Farmers feel abandoned on World Food Day (by Jette Collins, for Farm Radio Weekly in Liberia)

| October 11, 2010

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In Liberia, the local United Nations office has planned a program for World Food Day. But many farmers have never heard of World Food Day or the scheduled activities.

James Flomo is 45 years old and a father of six. He operates a large rice farm in the town of Kolahun in northern Liberia. Mr. Flomo and his wife Sarah spend their days working on the farm. Maintaining the farm has been a challenge because he does not have the right farming tools. Mr. Flomo says that World Food Day is of no relevance to them: “To be frank with you, I am just hearing about the day from you.” He has never received any information about the day, and feels neglected. He notes, “We have been abandoned by these organizations claiming to be [acting] in our interest. We strive on our own to sustain our local farms.”

While World Food Day is being celebrated, Liberian farmers lack farming tools and seeds. Thus, they wonder how they can celebrate. Lorpu Tamba is a 39 year old female farmer and mother of four. She urgently needs rice seed. Without it, she will not be able to plant a large part of her farm. Ms. Tamba says they welcome World Food Day, but that activities should go beyond mere celebration. She says, “Celebrating World Food Day is good, but we need help. We have been left alone for years to do our own thing.”

She believes that uniting against hunger becomes real when people see themselves as key players in the process. Ms. Tamba believes that to have a successful World Food Day, the organizers need to increase awareness about the importance of the day. Specifically, she says, “They need to work with us as farmers to celebrate the day. We want to be a part of it.”

Joseph Myers, 32, has a large banana farm in Bong County. He is aware of the World Food Day celebrations. Mr. Myers also believes that farmers should be part of the celebration. He recommends a colourful activity for the day, saying, “I would strongly recommend a food exhibition … this activity will allow the farmers to bring what they grow for public viewing. Prizes should be given to the best farmers.” He says this will make the farmers feel important. They will work hard to be active in the next event.

As Liberia slowly recovers from the ruins of war, every farmer is battling the threat of hunger. A farmer named William Kollie has this message for the World Food Day organizers: “… the international community [needs] to increase support to local farmers as they strive to grow more food. We welcome the celebration, but we don’t see ourselves as key players in it.”

Mr. Kollie hopes that organizers will involve farmers like him next year.