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Boosting Sustainable Agriculture, Local Farmers Applaud ArcelorMittal-Liberia for Support

“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.
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Zualay, Nimba County Liberia: – It was a colorful display of different locally grown agricultural products 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 products 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, Giepa, 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, and 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.”

Biodiversity Program Yields Result in New Yekepa

Some members of the Feawaseh Farming Group alongside Environmental staff of AML during harvest of a rice farm under the project.

A farmers’ group in New Yekepa is praising ArcelorMittal Liberia for incorporating it into the Biodiversity and Conservation Project (BCP) for communities impacted by the company’s operations.

The Feawaseh Farming Group became one of the supported groups in 2022 when AML released a grant of over US$116,000 to the Agriculture Relief Services (ARS) to support local farmers in the implementation of BCP project with the goal of learning new farming methods that will help reduce the pressure on the forest vegetation and mitigate climate change.

ARS as an implementing partner provides the farmers with boots, farming tools, and fertilizers to facilitate their work.

In appreciation to AML for its inclusion, the Feawaseh group invited the Environmental Manager Department, Alvin Poure, Agronomist Samuel Peter, and other staff of the department to participate in their first harvest on January 14, 2023. 

The New Yekepa Feawaseh group first ventured into lowland rice cultivation for the first time, and at the launch of the harvest, Environmental Department Manager Alvin Poure commended the farmers for taking ownership of the project.

Mr. Poure further challenged the farmers to double up for the farming season this year to cultivate the entire swamp.

The group, during the visit of ArcelorMittal’s Vice President for Environmental and Sustainable Development Grace Barrasso late last year, explained that they could not cultivate the entire swamp with rice due to late inclusion on the project.

They assured the AM Vice President and the local staff here that they would extend to the uncultivated area this year since they will be beginning much sooner. 

The group through its head extended gratitude to AML for the support through ARS and pledged to get involved in the different methods of farming being introduced to them. 

As they harvest their swamp rice, Feawaseh group does not have a storage facility to store the rice.  In this regard, the chairman of the group, Paye Lah, appealed to AML to help them construct a durable storage facility to store their rice after harvest.

Chairlady Victoria Sandah said she was grateful to AML for exposing them to new and productive farming methods for lowland cultivation.  She recalled how difficult it was to apply the rudimentary method of planting that they are used to and noted that the new method makes it easy to weed grass in the rice.

“Before, we can just plot our rice stems any kind of way, but ARS has taught us to plant in line.  With this, planting the rice in line can make it easy for us to move grass from the rice without damaging any,” Madam Sandah said.

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