In their quest to help Bishop Samuel J. Quire, Jr., take the church ‘back to the soil’, the Gbarnga Mission Station is growing swamp rice that will enable the station to supply most of the farmers with seed rice in the Gbarnga area. “Our initial plan is to engage in seed rice multiplication as a way of combating food insecurity which is threatening this part of Liberia,” Rev. Dr. James Labala said.
Labala, the Mission Station Director indicated that since the pronouncement by the Liberian bishop, he and his staff have been testing a variety of seed rice to know which one would be good to serve the people. He said a variety of rice has been identified that will take three to four months and be ready for harvesting and eating, adding, “as conference secretary I will do all within my power to support the quest of the bishop in returning this church to the soil.” The mission station has already harvested some of their sample seed rice for onward multiplication.
Occupying about six acres of swamp land, the mission station is expected to grow rice three times a year that will possibly feed the people of the mission station. Labala said the swamp rice project is an initiative of the mission station. “If we can get help from our overseas partners the swamp rice seed multiplication will be an ideal way for the United Methodist Church in Liberia to contribute to the fight against food insecurity,” he asserted. Labala’s statement confirmed the words of one of the contractors of the project who said support is needed for productivity.
For his part, Gontorwon Neahn said working on the rice farm will be very easy once the mission station can fully pay for the services of the contractors. “We can grow more rice from the three months variety of rice if we are compensated well and given the right tools to work,” Neahn said. He pointed out that workers of the project can survive on at least $10 United States dollars feeding money per day, adding, “the only problem we are having now is food to sustain us during working hours.”
At the February 2017 conference Bishop Samuel J. Quire, Jr indicated that agriculture was going to be the key factor that would facilitate sustainability in the church. “I’d like to see a church that is vibrant, spiritually awake, evangelistically functional and self-sustaining, especially in the area of agriculture,” Bishop Quire said in June 2017. The Gbarnga Mission Station is positively responding to the call that Bishop Quire made in Ganta City, Nimba County northern Liberia where he presided over his first annual conference session.
On August 25, 2017, United Methodist Rural Agricultural Development Project (UMRADP), the official agriculture ministry of the church in Liberia launched over $100,000 agriculture project to include rice farming. “I want for every district and local church to own a farm before I retire from my episcopal leadership,” Bishop Quire said during the launch. Though the Gbarnga Mission Station is not funded by UMRADP or any partner, its action is in the right direction, observed one church official.
E. Julu Swen