Something 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)
…expresses disappointment at Govt’s silenceThe fracas that occurred at the New Thriving restaurant’s parking lot and involved allegations of a guard pointing a gun at Junior Natural Resources Minister Simona Broomes – an allegation that has since been debunked by video footage — reinforces the need for the existence of a strong ministerial code of conduct.David HindsThis is according to Dr David Hinds, who also expressed disappointment that so far only one official, Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence, has publicly addressed the matter.Hinds, who is also an executive member of the Working People’s Alliance – a party within the coalition Government — has expressed that while he is mindful that errors of judgement happen, the behaviour of the minister is a worrying one. He expressed the belief that had the minister been a private citizen, she would not have behaved in the manner depicted in the surveillance video.“It is one of the worrying characteristics of the top echelon of this Government and (of) previous ones. They seem intoxicated by the power they have, and use it simply because they have it and could use it. Part of it, I think, has to do with their unfamiliarity with political power that is born of a lack of proper preparation for high office,” Hinds declared.“I have read where some defenders cite the minister’s hard work and forthrightness as her assets. But effectiveness as a minister is not licence for bullyism. At the very least, the Government, the President and the party to which the minister is affiliated should publicly disassociate themselves from such behaviour,” Hinds cautioned.He stressed the importance of leadership by example from those in leadership positions, and noted that throwing one’s weight around as a minister and then telling a story that is at odds with the available facts is, at the end of the day, “official bullying.”“In the final analysis, this episode reinforces the need for a serious Code of Conduct for Ministers. It also signals that those entrusted with public power must manage it better. Our country is mired in lawlessness and incivility at all levels, and if we are to pull ourselves out of it, those who are in leadership positions must lead by example,” Hinds chided. While a Code of Conduct for Ministers was gazetted last year June, it was heavily criticised for being weak. Specifically, the Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc (TIGI) had stated, after reviewing the draft, that some of its most critical recommendations, including penalties for specific breaches, have been ignored.The parking lot sagaMinister Simona Broomes had claimed that she and her driver, whose name has to date not officially been released to the media, had been victims of verbal assaults and threats by two security guards who were attempting to bar her from parking in a specific section of the establishment.Minister Broomes had also alleged that one of the guards had pointed and “crocked” a firearm at her and the driver of her SUV vehicle at some point during the incident. She claimed she was fearful for her life and safety as a result of the actions of the guards; who, following the incident, were arrested and detained by Police ranks before being released on their own recognisance.But since the release of CCTV footage last week, it has become clear that the version of the story told by Minister Broomes is different from what was depicted on camera. This has caused much criticism to be unleashed on social media against the APNU/AFC official. Video footage has displayed Broomes and her driver becoming enraged upon being told that they could not park in the specific area. Broomes was seen stepping out of the vehicle and throwing the “No parking” sign from the spot. And as her driver moved the vehicle forward, it almost struck one of guards who stood in front of it. The driver then exited the vehicle again, and another exchange followed.Asked last week whether the Police have found any proof to substantiate the claims made by Minister Broomes that a gun had been aimed at her during the ordeal, Crime Chief Paul Williams has declined to make any definitive pronouncement. Police are, however, expected to wrap up their investigations soon.