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Farmers Say Food Crisis is Looming from Climate Change – FrontPageAfrica

Farmers Say Food Crisis is Looming from Climate Change – FrontPageAfrica

Farmers Say Food Crisis is Looming from Climate Change – FrontPageAfrica

Musu Sumo, a Bong County farmer, says that climate change has destroyed her family.

SINYEA, Bong County –The Sumo family was anxious after two years of poor harvests. Rain had been unpredictable. The sun felt even hotter. Their five-hectare plot was dry. They planted bitter ball and pumpkin, corn, pepper, corn, okra, and rice, following the same rules that they had been following all their lives as subsistence farmers.

Evelyn Kpadeh Seagbeh, New Narratives

However, their harvest was another disaster.

“The sun ray is not easy this year, it’s too much, even if you water the crops it can’t still make it,” Musu Sumo said. “The corn and pumpkin we planted in the rice, nothing came up. They all left short-short and died.”

To make up for the lack of rain, the Sumos dug pits around the farms to provide water to the crops every morning and night. It was hard work but it was not enough. The rice they planted last season was gone long before its harvest. They have only five bags this year, compared to 25 bags in the past. The family will have to buy rice.

“Farming nowadays is like a waste of time and resources, “ said Sam Sumo, Musu’s husband. “We work hard, investing money in the work, but we get far less and for us farming is our life. We are confused now and don’t know what to do.”

Climate change is wreaking havoc on Liberia’s farmers. Subsistence farming is a major source of income for up to 80%. Seventy per cent of jobs are tied to agricultural exports – rubber, coffee, palm oil, sugar and cocoa. According to Jerome Nyenka (leading climate change expert), climate change is threatening Liberia with a food security crisis.

“The coming and the end of rain have changed. We don’t know when the sunshine will start and when it will end,” said Professor Nyenka, the University of Liberia professor and former executive director of the Environmental Protection Agency. “Farmers are losing their source of survival. They are finding it increasingly difficult to grow their crops now that climate change has set in. So they don’t have enough to eat, much less to sell. If you can’t find food to eat how do you pay for your children’s school fees? How do you buy medicine for yourself and your family members?”

Ezekiel Yokpawolo, 42 years old, stated that 2020 and 2021 are the worst seasons he’s experienced in his 10 year career as a farmer. He has suffered from inconsistency in weather conditions.

“In 2020 I credited $LD30,000 from a financial saving club to invest into the soil and I planted bitter ball and other vegetables,” Mr. Yarkpawolo said. “But the sun killed everything immediately after they sprouted. I was so devastated and indebted to the club that it made me appeal to them to pay back each meal. We are really suffering.”

Climate change is most heavily affecting women because they carry the greatest burden in terms of food and water collection.

“You can see all around us, woman like me was making bitter ball and okra farms to enable me harvest and earn some good money, but there was no way, I lost,” said an emotional Musu. “I’m frustrated! To get nothing, you must work so hard! You will not get a single day off. It will make you feel sick. I am appealing to the government to help us farmers or bring work.”

Climate change is causing havoc across the globe, from wildfires and flooding in California and Australia to flooding and heatwaves in Europe and Asia. However, in poor countries like Liberia it is difficult to invest in infrastructure and adaptation technologies that can help people adjust.

The United States has committed $US100bn per year to climate change adaptation in developing nations. The Liberian government has proposed a $US490.5m adaptation plan that will focus on six climate-sensitive sectors – agriculture, coastal resources, energy, fisheries, forestry and waste. It has pledged to fund 15% of the cost, while the remaining 85 percent will be funded by donors. Acceptable proposals are required by the government to unlock these funds. New Narratives was informed by international donors that the recent anti-corruption investigation into Agriculture Ministry will not be of any assistance.

Recently announced: A $US9.5 million dollar investment ProjektThe International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) will back this initiative, which will target 250,000 smaller farmers, including 10,000 rice and 10,000 cocoa producers. It will also support 5,000 smallholder farmer with 40% going to women.

“Beyond that, the government is also thinking of bringing in a financial institution similar to what the Agriculture Bank was to make sure farmers have access to funding that they can borrow, grow their farms and pay back,” said Wilson Tarpeh, the chief executive of the Environmental Protection Authority. “The government is not only thinking, but also doing something about the impacts of climate change on our farmers.”

The help can’t come soon enough for cocoa farmers like James Kerkulah. Here in Seke Ta, Palala District in Bong County, Mr. Kerkulah is one of the many farmers here who don’t know how to manage their crops with the new climate conditions.

This season, cocoa trees that should be full are empty

“We used to harvest our cocoa up to February, but you went into the bush and there’s nothing much on the trees. We keep losing,” Mr. Kerkuleh said.

“The level of flowering that is supposed to produce the yield for the cocoa are not much,” said Lassana Tucker, a technician with local NGO, the Vainga Agriculture Development Management Consultancy, which supports 600 local farmers in four counties with training and guidance.

“Because the amount of rain fall that the cocoa needs to get the cocoa bobs are not coming timely. We should have been harvesting up to February, but now it has gone short.” 

It was difficult for Mr. Kerkulah’s family.

“My plan in 2021 was that after my harvest I would raise around $LD30,000 at least to change the roof of my house to zinc and pay my children’s school fees. I never made it to $LD 10,000. We are laboring for nothing.”

Tucker stated that some of his colleagues have given up cocoa farming. He now has to explain that climate change is not their fault.

“They want to know from us, ‘How are these things happening?’. We try to explain that now, the issue is a global issue,” said Mr. Tucker.

Professor Nyenka expects that agriculture exports will be severely affected unless there is major intervention. With 90% of Liberia’s export earnings coming from agriculture that will be a blow to the economy. Because Liberia does not have sophisticated irrigation systems as they do in other countries ,and depends on rainfall alone, Liberia’s produce will not be able to compete.

“Each crop has a requirement of sunshine, water, humidity so when rain is delayed it will affect the yield,” said Professor Nyenka. “If the rain is delayed by two or three weeks that means that your crop will not be good. And you will not be able to sell it on international markets.”

See Also
The BIC statement provides some examples of the efforts of the global Bahá’í community to breaking down barriers to women’s participation in community and life and responses to crises. The BIC states: “Through moral educational programs, attitudes of unity and fellowship are instilled from a young age so that participants come to view each other as valued allies working for the well-being of their communities.”

If the industry is to be saved, Nyenka says that the government will have to make significant investments. For smallholder farmers Professor Nyenka has clear advice:

“Climate change is real. We should all listen to the international experts and NGOs as well as the government. There are things they want us to do,” he said.

Nyenka stated that farmers should not rely on one crop and mix them. They should add animals – piggeries, poultry, cane rats, beekeeping. The soil is fertilized by animals. And don’t clear shrubs and trees. Healthy farming environments include trees, animals, and plants.

“Together we fight climate change,” Professor Nyenka warned. “It’s everybody’s business. If one group of people fail to take action, we will all fail.”

This story was created in collaboration with New Narratives, as part of the Land Rights and Climate Change Reporting Project. The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office funded the project. The funders’ had no say in the story’s content.

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