Local farmers, AML representatives, and partners pose for a photo at the end of the trade fair
It was a colorful display of different locally grown agricultural produce and a proud moment as more than 240 local farmers in eight communities of Nimba’s Gbehlay Geh and Sanniquellie Mah districts gathered in Zualay to showcase their farm produce at a trade fair organized by the Rural Integrated Center for Community Empowerment (RICCE), with support from ArcelorMittal Liberia.
The farmers and local authorities commended ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML), for its efforts to reduce deforestation and support sustainable agriculture, in the county through the project “Strengthening household food security and income generation through sustainable agriculture intensification- phase five,” sponsored by AML with RICCE as its implementing partner.
It aims to contribute to the reduction of deforestation through sustainable agriculture in lowlands to enhance household food security.
AML is providing financial support to community-based organizations, including RICCE and Agriculture Relief Services (ARS), to train and support local farmers in sustainable farming methods.
From Zualay and other communities such as Suakazu, Sehtontuo, Dulay, Yolowee, Geipa, Zortapa, and Kpolay Nyantuo, the farmers showcased several agricultural products, including rice, plantains, pineapples, pepper, peanuts, yams, and vegetables.
The acting paramount chief of Zor chiefdom, Nathaniel Zain praised AML for empowering locals through RICCE with new and improved skills for sustainable farming, which also helps to reduce deforestation.
He termed AML as the source of all major developments taking place in the region and appealed that the company includes in the sustainable forming program, two new towns that have been added to the chiefdom.
Speaking on behalf of the farming groups, Moses Wehyee, a farmer from Suakazu also praised AML for helping them get new farming skills and tools, that are immensely contributing to their livelihoods.
“We want to say thank you very much to the AML family, for keeping this group up, because this group came into existence when the good news of this program spread to our part of the district. Suakazu is like a beautiful girl sitting in the middle of the road expecting any good man that will prove to be worthy to marry. We want to say thank you very much for bringing this program to us and being a help. Some of us were nowhere. We did not know anything about conservation agriculture…but through the help of AML we are on the map for the good things AML is doing,” Wehyee said.
However, he appealed that the company includes bees and fishery farming in the activities being implemented in the program, by RICCE. In addition, he appealed for additional intracultural support, as well as improved farming equipment and machinery.
“We are asking AML to empower our partner, RICCE to add other activities to this project, to increase the yields of our produce,” he said.
His call was reinforced by Sylvester Genseen, head of the Vegetable Inputs Marketing Body (VIMB), who disclosed that additional support to the program will help increase the income of farmers.
“At the beginning of this project, RICCE came and promised that they would support us and give us tools to carry on our farming activities. Through the support of ArcelorMittal, they were able to fulfill that promise,” said Yahn Tokpah, another farmer from Gbobayee.
Tokpah praised the company for also supporting their village saving loan scheme and supporting the program implementing partner to increase their knowledge on its sustainability.
Speaking on behalf of the Forestry Development Authority, El-Amara Konuwah, the Chief Warden of the East Nimba Nature Reserve (ENNR) thanked the management of AML for helping to protect and conserve the forest-protected land and species, by engaging the farmers in sustainable farming activities, through its biodiversity program.
Konuwah promised the farmers that his office will work with RICCE to support the extension of the program to new communities craving to be added to the program.
The representative of the Northern Nimba Community Forestry Management Body, Nathaniel Kermue recognized AML as a major partner in the management and sustainability of the Northern Nimba forests.
“There are other protected forests established through FDA that are really not receiving support. But when it comes to the management of the northern Nimba forest in Liberia, we are being immensely supported by ArcelorMittal Liberia and other partners, including RICCE on the Zor side and ARS on the Yarmein side” he said.
He assured the local Community Forest Management Body’s commitment to working with all available partners, to ensure sustainable management of their forest.
ArcelorMittal Environmental Superintendent, Samuel Peter on behalf of the company thanked the farmers and their groups, the implementing partner RICCE and other partners in their collaboration and partnerships that are working to reduce deforestation and ensure improved livelihood, through sustainable farming methods.
Peter praised farmers particularly in the Zor chiefdom for wholeheartedly embracing sustainable farming and conservation methods and encouraged them to continue.
“You should see this effort as your own, and not for ArcelorMittal. You’re working for yourself, and must take more ownership of the program,” he said.
He said AML listened to the recommendations and will work to include some of them in subsequent programs with the communities.
“ArcelorMittal is here. We are not only here to mine, but we will give back to the communities, through whatever support we can provide, especially in terms of conservation in our northern Nimba landscape.”