CONSIDERING POST-EBOLA LIBERIA (PART TWO): A CRISIS AS AN OPPORTUNITY

first_imgThe thrust of this second article of the series on what happens to Liberia after the Ebola crisis is on how we may turn the havoc of Ebola into a huge opportunity to make a great nation and a better people. Most human beings dread disasters, crises, and catastrophes because of the real danger and threat they pose to peace and comfort and life itself. But God Almighty can bring good out of evil (divine providence) and a crisis can be an opportunity to change for the better. The introductory article on the grave nature of the Ebola crisis observed the following key points:There is no doubt that the Ebola outbreak is affecting seriously or challenging our existence as a nation and very way o life. Ebola is forcing us to change how we greet one another, show affection to each other, and how we show love and care for our sick. Naturally we are a hospitable people who love to shake hands, hug and embrace as we welcome and cater to family, friends and strangers who come to our homes. But the Ebola menace is denying us of that basic innate instinct!Ebola is causing a lot of stigmatization among ourselves and from outsiders. The Ebola virus is so deadly that it incites fear and panic among families, places of work and play, and communities. It instantly drives away people from those who need them most. People who are suspected of having Ebola, those who have recovered from it, and those who work at Ebola treatment centers are shunned in some instances. Liberians who travel abroad and those who live in foreign parts are sometimes made to feel that they are a danger to have around and thus despised. A bishop told me while in another African country he announced that he was a Liberian and the immigration lady instantly said, “Bishop, I am afraid of you O”.Ebola is undermining the family bond and causing divisions in some instances. I hear sad stories of some family members abandoning one another for fear of Ebola. To see your wife or child or mother sick and be told not to touch the suffering person is a terrible feeling to contemplate. Someone has said that Ebola is a mean disease!Ebola is killing an already fragile economy and is doing so fast. It has slowed down economy activities and created a new wave of unemployment. All learning institutions of the country are closed. The little ones are deprived of learning.  Most of those working with our mining and forest concessions, road construction, public and private offices and on the hydro are forced to stop work and in some instances are not paid. They, their families and dependant are severely pressed to survive one way or the other. Non-food small businesses are drastically hit. The prices of food and other essentials are going up and are likely to escalate.The already much distrust between the government and its people (the Masses) is apparently increased by the Ebola crisis. A lot of people assume and speak as though for a fact that the funds allocated to fight Ebola are being squandered and are used to enrich a few against the majority. Ebola turns families and communities against one another out of fear. It causes stigmatization and leaves a permanent scar. But is this all to Ebola? Or can we turn this greatest of national challenges into something to make us better? Yes, I suggest, we can and should. How?Joshua David Stone and Gloria Excelsias assert that every crisis is an opportunity: “Any crisis is an opportunity to change direction in your life”. They reveal that the word crisis is of Greek origin and it means “a turning point in a disease.” Their conclusion is: “So a crisis is truly an opportunity for a turning point in our lives”. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks of turning our liabilities into assets. He uses the perennial example of Helen Keller who lived in the late 1880’s and early 1900’s. Made blind and deaf by a debilitating disease at the age of nine, she rose above the challenges in those days of being blind and deaf to acquiring a university degree and becoming an author, a lecturer, and an activist for the disabled. She could have mourned and blamed other people for her condition. No, rather she worked extra hard and excelled above many normal persons! Some experts in how to turn problems into opportunities speak about “turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones” in going higher rather than lower.We all need to believe in our hearts and attitudes that Ebola will be over, will be defeated. We now have an opportunity to rethink  how we think about ourselves (mindset) and live (conduct). There is a need for us to reconsider our national agenda and put a lot more emphasis on health, education, infrastructure, how we manage what we have (vast natural and other resources), and creativity in making the most of the numerous opportunities that come our way. Someone has observed that when we face inevitable changes in life, and they will come from to time, we have two choices: either to cry and give up and let the changes do whatever they will or we can use them to get better. We need to move from fine talking and planning to actual doing with all seriousness. More will be said in subsequent articles about how we can turn this Ebola crisis into a great opportunity to make us better.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

The Promise of Aquaculture

first_imgSomething good and promising happened in Gbarnga last week. Madam Estelle Kuyon Liberty, a Commissioner at the Land Commission who hails from Bong County, harvested some large fish from three of her fishponds. She is not a professional farmer; rather a money economist trained at her brother Bismarck Kuyon’s alma mater, Iowa State University in the United States. It was Bismarck, a brilliant student, who studied Marine Biology at Iowa State on a scholarship from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Government Farm in Suakoko (now Central Agricultural Research Institute-CARI). Bismark had graduated second of his class from the Booker Washington Institute in 1958 and entered Cuttington College and Divinity School (now Cuttington University), where he continued in Agriculture. He was to return from Iowa and construct fishponds around the country, beginning in his native Bong County. He served at the Agriculture Ministry for some time, then answered the call of his church, the United Methodist, to become principal of the Gbarnga Methodist Mission. He later entered politics and never returned to fishponds, scientifically know as aquaculture.Estelle returned from Iowa State and joined the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs, where she rose to Assistant Minister and Senior Economist. She later served as Deputy Minister in the Gender, Internal Affairs and Post and Telecommunications Ministries, respectively, then joined the Land Commission as a Commissioner.It was probably after recalling her late brother’s conversations about fishponds that Estelle later became interested in aquaculture. She constructed several ponds and then founded the Bong County Aquaculture Association (BCAA). Its aim: involving Bong farmers in starting fishponds to improve the people’s protein diet and make money to escape poverty. This enterprising money economist seems determined to extend aquaculture to other counties. She has already enlisted over 94 active fish farmers, including several women and has involved people in Nimba, Grand Cape Mount and Margibi counties. Estelle is receiving technical assistance from ADRA, the Adventist Relief Agency. She is now providing CARI with fish fingerlings with which CARI is now doing research to determine whether heterotis, a breed of fish that she brought in from Guinea, can be further developed here. Heterotis is also found in the St. John River, which bridges Bong and Nimba counties and travels on to Grand Bassa. The ADRA experience is different from regular aquaculture because ADRA has taught farmers to grow not only fish in ponds but also crops, such as vegetables, potato and even rice. Estelle says she is still eating some of the rice she grew in her fish ponds. Aquaculture seems to be an industry whose time has come in Liberia. Estelle contacted the Swedish NGO, GROW, which promptly sent out an aquaculture expert, Damien Legros. He toured eight counties, conducted a market system assessment in aquaculture and concluded that this sector must strengthen its commercial viability for farmers to benefit in several ways. Though still in its infancy, Mr. Legros said in his report, “aquaculture presents Liberia with favorable conditions for the government and partners to prioritize the sector by giving a boost to mechanized farming.”Two additional advantages he named are Liberia’s abundant fresh water and its climate, which he described as “perfect” for most cultured species such as tilapia. Mr. Legros recommended “an implementation and budgeting mainly of the draft aquaculture policy with re-enforcement of the competent authority, the Bureau of National Fisheries. This is why we say aquaculture has great promise in Liberia. From fish, our farmers could go into shrimp and even lobster production. We are happy for a woman like Estelle Liberty who, with the help of NGOs like ADRA and GROW, is single-handedly driving this infant industry. We urge other entrepreneurs to join her. Remember this: Liberia has over the decades had many, many opportunities that we have thrown away and this is partly why our country is listed among the world’s poorest nations. Let this not happen again with this great opportunity that aquaculture presents.We encourage Madam Estelle Liberty to redouble her efforts to push aquaculture throughout Liberia. And though yes, we have the National Fisheries Bureau, let the aquaculture industry be private-sector driven and not be handicapped by government bureaucracy.Estelle, the ball is in your court. Drive it, as you engage your fellow fish farmers around the country and ADRA, GROW, FED/USAID and any other interested group that can help. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more