Liberia: Bong Citizens Extol the Reopening of Taylor Farm
The resumption of active work on former president Charles Taylor’s farm in Melekee, Bong County, has been described by several citizens of the county as a boost to the agriculture sector. Activities leading to the reopening of Yassah Farm, popularly known as Taylor Farm, commenced two weeks ago with the recruitment of more than one hundred persons from the Melekee and Gbarnga communities amongst others.
Speaking to some citizens, they told the Analyst that the reopening of Taylor farm, being one of the country’s largest private farms, would increase agricultural productivity and provide employment opportunities for ordinary citizens. “We will realize our dreams again as local farmers,” said Beatrice Jones, a local farmer in Gbarnga. She went on to say that between 1999 – 2002, the Taylor farm produced rice, vegetables, coffee and other agricultural products that reduced the high cost of food in the central region of Liberia.
Some of the casual workers on the farm expressed joy over the reopening of the Taylor Farm and promised to support the project. They told our Bong County correspondent that the reopening of the farm will enable them to get money to pay their children’s school fees and meet other family obligations.
Speaking with regards to future plans, the supervisor of the farm, Zack Jackson Brown, told the Analyst that the first phase of the project will basically focus on the cleaning up of the front view of the farm and to ensure that all damaged structures are renovated to enhance the reopening process while the second phase of the project will include the production of rice, coco, coffee and other cash crops which he said will help to further boost the agricultural sector and provide employment opportunities for the people in Bong and surrounding counties. Asked about the source of the funding for the reopening of the farm, Brown declined to comment.
However, during the visit to the farm by our correspondent, he noted the presence of ex-NPFL general Kuku Dennis who was also a close confidant of former president Taylor and ran a logging company in the Lofa bridge area during the war years. Over the years, Dennis has being actively involved in agriculture largely in the area of swamp rice production and many believed he is part of the management team sourcing funding for the reopening of the farm.
Mr. Dennis once managed the former One Blood Low Land Rice Project, an ECOWAS funded agriculture project that was intended to boost swamp rice production in Liberia in order for the country to become self sufficient in food production.
The wife of former president Charles Taylor, Jewel Howard Taylor, who is now Bong County Senator, recently told our correspondent in the county the Taylor family intends to reopen the farm as a way of buttressing government’s efforts in providing employment opportunities for Liberians and promoting the “back to the soil campaign”. Senator Taylor said the family was making concerted efforts to source more funding for the reopening of the farm in the wake of calls from many Liberians for the resumption of farming activities. Madam Taylor however did not disclose how much has been allotted by the Taylor family for the project but praised those who are currently providing their services for the reopening of the farm and called on them not to listen to detractors.
Yassah Farm popularly known as Taylor farm was the major employer of thousands of internally displaced people in the central region of Liberia from 1999-2002. Owned and ran by former president Charles Taylor at the time, the farm had a workforce of over ten thousand unskilled and professional Liberians who were employed and contracted to work in different capacities to increase production on the farm.
Rice, the stable food of Liberians, was produced on the farm and sold on the local market for LD$1000 which the average Liberian could afford at the time. The farm also produced cabbage, cassava, potato, bitter ball, pepper, and several other vegetables which were sold in Bong County as well as in Monrovia.
Different species of animals were also raised on the farm including chickens, rabbits, and cows, to name a few; there was also fish farming for the production of different breeds of fish for the fish market.
Activities on the farm stopped when LURD, then heading from Lofa County at the time, and other warring factions took total control of the central region which includes Bong, Nimba, Bassa and Lofa Counties.