Farmers in Zubah Town community, Paynesville City are calling on the Government of Liberia (GoL) to stop some individuals who are encroaching on their farmland that is situated within their community.
The farmers have said that the land was given to them by the government, but due to the encroachment on the land, they are finding it very difficult to continue to farm.
The swampland is managed and operated by the Community of Hope Agriculture Project (CHAP), a local non-governmental organization that is working to empower smallholder farmers in the country, mainly in rice cultivation.
The CHAP project in Zubah Town, an urban agriculture initiative, was established 2008, before Liberia launched the urban and peri-urban agriculture program in 2011, which aimed to empower communities to grow food within urban settlements to improve food security.
During that period, the project was recognized as one of the major urban agriculture sites in the country as it was supported by the government and partners to empower farmers within the Zubah Town community and its environs to grow food and earn income for their families.
However, after many years, the farm project is no longer sustainable as crop production, mainly rice has declined.
Speaking to the Daily Observer recently, at the project site, the Board Chairman for CHAP, Mr. James Bimba, said that they are very frustrated by the actions of individuals who continue to encroach on the land.
“We are highly frustrated by those people who have come to build on the land. They have damaged more of our rice crops by building fences and drainages within the field,” he said.
Mr. Bimba who is also one of the farmers cultivating the land said, unless the government intervenes, the project will no longer become productive.
“The government must put an immediate stop to those who are constructing homes on the land. This is unacceptable because the law does not allow people to use the swamps like ours for construction,” he stressed.
According to Mr. Bimba, the land was given to them by the government for agriculture purpose.
He stated that for the past years, a lot of residents have used the swamp to grow food and raise income for their families.
“The encroachment issue is not a recent problem. It is something that we have brought to the attention of the government, mainly authorities of the Paynesville City Corporation. But, unfortunately, the authorities of the city are yet to take any concrete action,” he said frustratingly.
“I am very disappointed by the government because they are the same people who are selling the swampland. This government cannot say agriculture is a priority and continue to sit there and people use swampland for construction,” he added.
“The government needs to make sure that lands intended for agricultural purposes in the communities are not used for construction. The use of swampland to construct homes, deprived the urban poor who are interested in agriculture,” he added.
The CHAP Board Chairman further explained that the current encroachment problem is now before the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) for prompt action.
For his part, the field supervisor of the CHAP farm project, Joseph Yini said that due to the challenges confronting the project, they are no longer cultivating a large portion of the swamp.
“This is a vast swamp well fertile to produce enough food for people of the community. But the many challenges confronting the project have limited our abilities to expand. During this farming season, we were only able to develop one hectare of the land with rice, using improved technologies,” he said.
“This farm is helping many people of the community to grow food and to raise income. What we need is for the government to provide us more support,” he added.