- 25 Feb
Agriculture, the Future of Liberia’s Job Creation
By Atty. George K. Saah, Director of Media Relations, Office of the Vice President, RL.
Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai, Vice President of the Republic of Liberia, is a man of great virtue—a man who believes that the best way out of poverty and to jump start the economy of Liberia is to engage in programs that directly impact the lives of the people. Since 2006 he has been fulfilling his constitutional mandate as Vice President of Liberia and engaging in activities and programs he believes are crucial in Lifting Liberia out of its “miry clay”.
If you talk to Vice President Boakai, his subject matter will frequently border around agriculture or food security, youth issues, women empowerment and job creation. He believes that agriculture is the bedrock of any economy and that empowering farmers could turn Liberia’s economy around because in his words most of Liberia’s future jobs lie in the agro sector and its downstream activities and not in the non renewable extractive industries.
He always cautions that the hydrocarbon industry or the oil sector requires highly skilled personnel and they don’t provide that many jobs but the future lies in agriculture. There is a direct relation between job creation and youth empowerment especially for a post war nation like Liberia. Vice President Boakai’s strong conviction is that agriculture is one of the bankable answers to Liberia’s unemployment problem which is matched with his vocation of working with youth and youth organizations for the past three decades.
His many years of working with the YMCA of Liberia and the LOIC, have provided the honorable Vice President with the opportunity to study the youth, their aspirations and needs and he brings this experience to the Vice Presidency. Liberia’s number one problem now is youth unemployment and he has the experience to deal with that situation . He has appointed a youth coordinator in his office to deal with youth issues and to bring to his attention all matters affecting the youth. He takes pleasure in liaising with most of the Organizations engaging in youth work to see how he can offer his advice and to cooperate with them.
He is of the strong conviction that the best security any society can have is for everybody to be empowered. The significance attached to agriculture and provision of jobs in that area for the youth and issues of national security are all intertwined for Liberia as a post war nation. ‘A rich minority will never be secured in an environment of a poor majority”, he asserts, reminding us that the agricultural sector remains one of the most certain paths to addressing the country’s youth underemployment.
On women issues, the Vice President recognizes the role of women in the decision making process of the nation. By coming into power of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a clear message has been sent that women are no longer in the background and he believes this is true the tide has changed.
Back in 2006, at the onset of their first term of office, Vice President Boakai was requested by President Sirleaf to handle a chronic problem that plagued the Liberia Marketing Association (LMA) for years. Everybody knows that in the LMA, there are more women than men and the issues of their empowerment cannot be taken lightly. The Vice President did handle the matter with such tact and dexterity that some resolution was reached. With the resolution of that crisis, dignity was restored among the marketers and there is sanity and peace. Again, the marketers depend on the agro sector to engage in their commercial activities. There is a clear link between farmers, employment, youth, women and security in the Liberian society and this is a key point the Vice President has stressed over and again. His advocacy for greater participation for women in governance and empowerment therefore cannot be overemphasized.
The Vice President was instrumental in bringing to Liberia credit facilities for Liberian women under the aegis of Foundation for Women through American Partners. Today, hundreds of Liberian women have benefitted from this program and their lives and those associated with them have been improved. Vice President Boakai is a unifier and a man who sees beyond political lines and ideologies. He thinks of Liberia as the only political party for all Liberians and the ultimate goal for all Liberians should be how to improve the nation so that poverty can be eliminated and for peace and prosperity to reign in every corner of the country.
He has been touring Liberia despite road challenges and has gotten the needs of the country on the palm of his hand, all with one objective to improve the lives of all Liberians. His good working relationship with the President has surpassed that of any president and vice president in recent Liberian political history. We have a good working relationship” he boasts. The two were schoolmates at the College of West Africa where they knew each other very well and President Sirleaf’s deceased husband worked with Vice President Boakai at the Ministry of Agriculture in the 1980s. President Sirleaf told a mammoth crowd at the Paynesville Town Hall in 2005 that, “With Joe behind me I can walk in the dark and not be afraid.”
In furtherance of these objectives, Vice President Boakai has been on a trail of visitations around the world to advance the interest of the country. The series of Investment forums both in the United Kingdom and the United States provided him the opportunity to raise awareness on Liberia’s investment climate and opportunities. He is a strong advocate for advancement of the community college system in the country. In that pursuit he flew to Phoenix, Arizona, United States of America, where he adopted the system and brought it back to Liberia. He went further to discuss technical high schools for Liberians who may not have the chance or want to go to college. He says the nation is built by technocrats–those who run power generators, lay blocks in the construction industry, shoe makers, painters, electricians, carpenters and agriculturists, etc.
He was in Copenhagen for the climate change summit, in Australia for the Extractive Industries Transparency International (EITI) Summit, in India for the 9th Conclave of the Confederation of India Industry/Exim Bank which was focused on Africa –India Partnership, as well as in Senegal for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Summit. Vice President Boakai has also addressed the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of the President, visited China to take a firsthand view of the steel industry, and showed up in several African, Asian and European nations in the interest of the country. Literally all these have resulted in bolstering great partnerships and collaboration.
In August, following the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic in March he braved the Ebola storm, defied all advice and traveled to the epicenter of outbreak in Lofa, specifically meeting the people in Foya and then Barkedu. There he met with local and international health workers trying to contain the virus. His trip to that county rekindled hope to the people in that County.
He holds firmly that the rebuilding of Liberia after the Ebola crisis will require more than rhetoric, vain political talks, and sloganeering. He sees prudent future planning in the dire need for the nation to get down to the business of growing more food to feed the nation and, in the same vein, pursuing those measures that will create jobs for the youth. He looks optimistically to the agro industry as the key reliable source of future of sustainable jobs.