By: Paul M. Kanneh
Kolba City in Kolahun District, Lofa County was on Monday, March 2, 2020 a scene of attraction when some farmers carrying large size of potato approach the central market ground.
Marketers, pedestrians and residents were seen standing by the roadside viewing the giant size potato being carried by a little girl and her grandfather. The strange size of the locally grown potato appeared to have cause stirs among marketers, most of whom stood in oblivion glancing at the vegetable.
“This is my first time to see potato of this size”, a resident of Kolahun, Richard Cole is quoted as posting on his social media page about the size of the potato. A marketer, Sangai who grows various type of vegetables said, she has never seen or harvested such size of potato. “I can’t believe that potato can get big like this”, Sangai said as she kept looking at the potato.
The owner (farmer) of the potato, old man Momoh (not his real name) is from the small hilly town of Balahun within Kolahun District, where is believe he planted the potato. As usual, on Monday, a day set aside for general commercial activities in Kolahun District which takes place in Kolba City, Old-Man Momoh and his granddaughter decided to bring their potato to sell and buy their weekly domestic provisions/cooking utensils.
While enroute to the market, Old-Man Momoh and his granddaughter drew the attention of residents living by the roadside with their giant size potato. Many people, especially phone users stopped them and asked to photograph the potato.
Rich Soil, Poor People
Endowed with 42% of the upper Guinea Forest, Liberians are ranked as one of the poorest people on planet earth, with many of them living below $US2.00 per day (World Bank Report-October 2016). According to the World Bank, about 54 percent of Liberians are living below the poverty line despite being blessed with vast forest land.
The Bank’s survey report said about 2.1 million Liberians who were unable to meet their basic food and non-food needs between January and August 2014. The Bank report further intimated that majorities of the food-poor, or those who caloric intake was insufficient to meet their basic needs, were living in the urban areas.
World Bank Executive, Daniel Boakye said the agriculture sector is one sector that can be used to reduce poverty. “Basically we see one sector as a very important component of addressing poverty, and that is the agriculture sector”, Mr. Boakye said.
Notwithstanding the Bank’s support to agriculture sector and the vast land, Liberians are among world’s population living in destitute due to lack of investment in the agriculture sector. Past and current administrations have shown less interest in agriculture programs; leaving the country’s population vulnerable to hardship and other form of human degradations. Those citizens who want to carry out private investment in the agriculture sector are left without support from central government, which causes their business to breakdown.
Natural resources become a curse
Blessed with natural resources of all sorts (diamonds, gold, timbers, etc), ordinary Liberians are living in abject poverty, something close to being described as curse on the people of the small West African country. These natural resources are being extracted by the rich and government elites at the detriment of the poor/host communities.
In 2019, a local civil society organization in Liberia, Volunteer To Support International Efforts In Developing Africa (VOSIEDA) launched a 21 page report highlighting illegal logging and noncompliance to social agreement signed between a logging company, Delta Timber Company and Numopoh community in Sinoe County. The report among others, pointed out that Delta is yet to meet a single obligation reached with the community since the signing of the contract in May 2016. However, although Delta is yet to meet a single obligation with the community, it has been extracting logs from the forest until civil society reported on the illegal logging and non-compliance.
These and many others illegalities including lack of empowerment from government for the locales have left community members to live in abject poverty. In practical reality, the country’s resources have become curse for the citizens, most of whom live below US$2.00 per day in the midst of huge forest land.
However, some communities like Kolahun are striving to survive using the soil. Subsistence farming is said to be a major source of survival by the people of this community. The community is considered to be among food and cash crop producing environments in Lofa County, and old-man Momo and his granddaughter are proving just that with their giant size potato that attracted marketers, pedestrians and residents of Kolba City on Marcy 2, 2020.