January 12, 2016
A former businessman who took up farming to help Liberia become more self-sufficient at generating food was named Person of the Year by the Daily Observer, one of the country’s top newspapers.
John Selma is part of a group that harvested 1 million tons of rice in Lofa County in 2015. Under Selma’s leadership, the group took advantage of technical assistance and farm lending facilitated by a U.S. Agency for International Development initiative—the Feed the Future Liberia Food and Enterprise Development Program (FED).
Selma, 43, quit school in fifth grade when his father, a successful surveyor, was killed during Liberia’s civil war. Inspired by his father’s community mindedness but deprived by Liberia’s instability, Selma got along by engaging in small businesses—including making small loans to farmers—until he took up farming himself.
“Late 2012, I realized that I needed to get back to the soil to grow more food after noticing that the issue of food is the country’s major problem,” Selma told the Monrovia-based Daily Observer. “I decided to start my farming activities with a village savings loan for only farmers in the county, while at the same time encouraging [local farmers] to go back to the soil with high expectations of earning a better living for them and their families.” In selecting Selma above other candidates, the newspaper wrote:
“We had been through the usual suspects … for 2015, we felt the need for significant focus on agriculture. But who were the major players? Who was that entrepreneurial farmer, someone who was solutions-oriented, a leader among his peers producing a volume of crop that inspired other farmers to compete?
”[John Selma] had to be our guy—in fact, our group—for what we saw on the ground in Lofa was an example that one need not be a wealthy businessman or politician to produce the kind of volume we are reporting about. It was an example of the possibilities that derive from good leadership, trust, unity—and, for goodness sake, hard work.”
Launched in 2012, FED assists farmers and farm communities to grow crops more successfully, supports agriculture coursework at Liberian universities, and encourages pro-farmer policies, among other activities.
To read the entire Daily Observer article, click here.
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