Wendell Mcintosh, Liberia’s ambassador at large, resident in The Netherlands, begun this journey because of his concern for the sorry plight of Liberian refugees in Guinea. tic started by raising funds to provide food and other provisions for the refugees. He then established agricultural projects to assist them by supplying the tools, seeds, and expert supervision.
When former President Charles Taylor moved his forces into Guinea, the Liberian refugees fled to Câte d’voire. Mcintosh joined them there and. established the same type of programme, but soon Taylor’s forces moved into Cote d’ voire and scupper McIntosh’s efforts.
But he was not daunted despite the heinous crimes perpetrated against Liberian citizens by the various warring factions; Mcintosh never lost sight of the fact that thousands of young men and women were abducted into the war as soldiers and sex slaves against their will.
Others were drawn into the fighting forces simply because there was no food to eat. Even though food was provided by the warring factions, it was laced with hard drugs along with an abundance of liquor and cigarettes which gave the young boys and girls a false sense of courage, so they would follow the orders of their leaders.
Two-thirds of Liberians are under 29 years of age, with little hope for the future. Ambassador Mcintosh has taken time to talk with and encourage these young women and men (former fighters) to think and act right. Many of these people are illiterate with no skills or access to markets and capital.
Mcintosh firmly believes that there will never be peace in Liberia unless these cx- combatants are rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. On many occasions over the years, he had reprimanded many a young man for being dirty or disrespectful, and so it was difficult for him to accept the demoralization of the Liberian people.
For years, he lamented and prayed over the death of his father who was murdered during one of the many coups in the country, and the continual killing and maiming of innocent Liberians. In 2003, when the Peace Accord was signed and UN forces (UNMIL) moved into the country, Ambassador Mcintosh knew his dream was coming to fruition. He knew that without food security, the peace process could not be complete, Not surprisingly, McIntosh’s Foundation for African Development Aid (ADA) became the first Liberian NGO to approach Charles Achodo, the policy adviser of the UNDP’s disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration programme (DDRR), with a skills training project proposal for year-round rice and vegetable production.
McIntosh was relentless in his efforts to obtain a contract to begin operations in 2003. But it was almost impossible competing with international NGOs moving in from Sierra Leone, etc. But McIntosh would not give up.
In 2004, he used his own money to rent a house next to the Chinese embassy in Tubman Boulevard in Congo Town, Monrovia, establishing his office. Fix-combatants were employed to assist in the renovation process and as security personnel.
A small staff of highly qualified people, including Steve Stubblefield who took the position as ADA’s country field director for the Agriculture Department was employed. Nick and Pat Wolfe, international consultants, also came from Abuja, Nigeria, in November 2003, and joined the ADA team in 2004. In August of that year, Ambassador McIntosh signed his that contract with the UNDP to train 1,000 ex-combatants in year-round rice and vegetable production at three sites in Margibi and Montserrado Counties (specifically at Cotton Tree Duport Road, and Kakata).
McIntosh immediately sprang into action, printing ‘f-shirts, purchasing tools, seeds and equipment, as leases were negotiated with landowners at the three sites. The programme was officially launched on 25 September 2004 at an impressive ceremony at the Paynesville City Hall in Monrovia. Families and friends of the 1,000 ex-combatants (both women and men) attended the ceremony along with members of the National Transitional Government of Liberia and UNDP/JIU representatives. Mr. Zhang Vi, economic counselor of the Chinese embassy, also attended.. Both McIntosh and Charles Achodo addressed the new trainees.
Times were tough for ADA. There was neither funding to transport the trainees nor money for daily feeding on project sites. Even though the UNDP was providing US$1.00 per day for each trainee over an eight- month training period, if they worked over 25 days per month, the US$30 didn’t go far since many of the trainees had an average of five dependents. With an 85% unemployment rate in the country, many family members were unemployed. Therefore, the only meal many trainees ate daily was at the ADA training site. The work was a rigorous, labour-intensive training programme.
Despite ADA’s cries for help, the UNDP said it did not provide), feeding, and thus it was up to the World Food Programme (WFP) to do so, if any feeding was to be provided at all. For five months, ADA struggled to provide rice and soup (the kind that consists of various meat and/or beans and vegetables cooked in oil). Finally, the WEP agreed to provide wheat, oil and, occasionally, peas to help relieve ADKs financial burden.
Even though there was no mandate for the UNDP to provide benefits to local farmers, ADA incorporated them into the training from the very beginning of the programme. Through this practice, ADA was able to “kill two birds with one stone”. First it helped pave the way for the reintegration of local community farmers and the ex combatants. Secondly, it gave an opportunity for Ambassador McIntosh to instill new practices and techniques into the old farmers.
In the past, Liberian farmers cultivated an average of one acre of rice once a year. Although rice is the staple food, Liberia has never produced enough to feed its people. The country imports millions of dollars of rice every year. Therefore, in order to increase rice production to meet the needs of the people4 at affordable prices, local farmers must farm multiple acres and increase production.
Technical experts came to Liberia from the Chinese Farm in Sierra Leone to look at the ADA training sites. They were most helpful in their suggestions and encouragement. Following the visit, the Chinese extended an invitation to McIntosh to send staff to Sierra Leone to visit the Chinese Farm and observe the harvesting of rice, etc. McIntosh accepted the invitation and sent Steve Stubblefield and other staff. This was followed by the purchase of equipment and seeds from China.
ADA went on to experiment with seeds from the Chinese Farm along with other imported seeds, and increased its rice production by nearly 50% by using hybrid seeds. As the training and seed experimentation continued throughout the first eight months, McIntosh and his staff happy over the results, felt they had made some wise decisions. ADA established football teams at each of the three training sites. Football kits and boots were purchased for the players and much fun and excitement was created as the teams played against each other.. Agricultural theory and practical training continued over the eight—month programme. Psycho-social counseling was also provided on a regular basis to help trainees adjust to their new environment, instilling life skills and encouragement for all.
During the post-war period, many unwed young girls who were pregnant or with small babies resulting from rape. were struggling. ADA encouraged them and other women to become part of the programme, and tough roles were laid down for special treatment of women who made up over 20% of the first training, followed by 35% women in the second training period. It was nut unusual for a woman trainee (after delivering a baby during the training) to conic to the office and ask McIntosh if she could name her child after him.
UNOP provided small funding for medical expense. Medicines were donated by the TIC Mennonite Programme (Christian Aid Ministries) and the International Medical Corp. Many of the ex-combatants suffered from various injuries incurred during the ‘var. Ambassador McIntosh personally paid for shrapnel to be removed, But there were many other cases. One boy in severe pain requited surgery on his eye to relieve pressure caused by glaucoma.. As they brought their aches and pains to him, he struggled to meet those needs. In one case, during an assessment, one student complained of a “water-borne” disease he had allegedly contracted while working in the swamp. He was very vocal and angry. But when the young man was checked by the medical staff, it was discovered he had chicken pox. ADA’s medical staff treated sexually transmitted infections (along with some of their sexual partners) while providing HP/i Aids awareness and prevention information to trainees.
Although ADA diligently sought adult literacy training materials, and pleaded with some of the donor agencies to include its stall’ in sonic of their adult literacy training classes, its pleas were ignored. The staff, thus, struggled with little information provided by the Liberian Ministry of Education which had few literature or supplies to help in the process.
Perplexed by the situation, Nick and Pat Wolfe travelled to Oklahoma. USA, to meet with the state senator, Daisy Lawyer, a retired elementary school teacher, Senator Lawyer recommended the Saxon Programme which had been adopted by several US’ States for their public school systems. The senator also took the Wolfes to meet the author of the programme, Lorna Simmons, who donated materials to ADA. Displaced, illiterate, separated from family roots, ex-combatant trainees are easily set off.
If they heard something on the radio that they were entitled to this benefit or that. and they weren’t receiving it, they would get upset. Many times McIntosh would drive to a project site to talk to the trainees and get them on the right path. One morning, he received a phone call from one of the held assistants, saying there had been a problem with ex-combatants at a nearby village. McIntosh rushed to the scene and discovered that the ex-combatants had been urinating on the side of the ADA truck and a villager had said something in response to their actions. Offended, the ex-combatants had stopped the driver of the truck, jumped off and beaten the man up.
McIntosh took the man to hospital, made peace with the villagers, and read the Riot Act to the trainees. He told them it they ever misbehaved again, they would be out of the programme. The trainees know’ he is not a man to joke with. Many knew him personally, or knew of him and his reputation. demanding respect and discipline.
Since then, no major problems have been encountered, and the operations are going on line. Ambassador McIntosh and his stall are on course to achieve their goal of food security fur the people and skills training for the youth.
One step at a time
Despite finding shortages, ADA is making steady progress and has again beep voted “the NGO of the year 2005” by the Liberian media, as they did in 2004. The first few months of ADA’s programme were a real orientation period. ADA staff continually encouraged the young people who had never worked before or had had no labour-intensive training persevere with the programme.
If it had not been for the hot meals provided daily, many, no doubt would have been inclined to forget it. But, because they were struggling to eat at home, the one meal provided by ADA was certainly better titan no meal at all. And at the end of the month, they were also getting US$30 as a subsistence allowance.
ADA provided soap for the trainees so they could wash their clothes. Every little help was appreciated. At first some trainee entered the programme only to drop out until they saw their friends receiving the $30 subsistence allowance after the first month and they rushed back in. Looking back on those lust eight months people who saw how it a1l started have much admiration for Ambassador McIntosh and the ADA field staff for their perseverance and patience with the out-of contro1 young trainees. This brought about ADAs choice of the motto: “One step at a time”.
At the end of the first eight months, Mr Steve Ursino the UNDP Country representative in Liberia, described ADA as the showcase of the UNDP DDRR programme. The Liberian media followed by voting ADA as the “NGO of the Year 2004” Again in January 2006, the Liberian media Voted ADA as the NGO of the Year 2005. This needs celebrating early 2005, 96 graduates appeared once again at the Paynesville City Hall for the graduation ceremony.
Ambassador McIntosh addressed the crowd and told the trainees he had one acre of land each one of them to farm in the various leeward counties. He said there would be football games and BBQ cow the following day (a Saturday), and on Monday they could start picking up their graduation certificates, tool kits and seeds, etc.
The Chinese ambassador to Liberia, Songtian Lin, who attended the graduation ceremony, was so impressed that. he told McIntosh “The programme was great, but the discipline was outstanding’ Although the excitement was high, it-was soon dampened by the fact that no funding was forthcoming from any donor to help ADA resettle the 996 voting people even though ADA had continued to seek funding during the tight months programme.
McIntosh hoped that someone would see what he was trying to accomplish and come to the rescue with funding needed for the resettlement. To date no money has been provided for resettlement Aware of the thousands of ex-combatants in Monrovia. ADA knew that if it could train just 1,000 of them, it could move them to the various counties and help resettle them on the land it had obtained for them.
ADA would then be in a position to encourage and offer extension services to help them slay committed as self- employed farmers while it organized additional training programmes in those counties for more ex-combatants who had been disarmed.
It was ADA’s goal to continue this process and get hundreds, if not thousands of youths, roaming the streets of Monrovia into the skills training programmes (including the handicapped who lost arms, legs, eyes, etc. during the war) so they would have livelihoods and not return to the gun.
But donors who were not close to the people did not seem to grasp the importance of training people in the Monrovia area, and moving them out to the various counties to bring about reintegration and recovery at the local community level where the infrastructure was totally destroyed during the 14 years of civil conflict.
At one press conference at the Duport Road Training site, following the completion of a training programme, some graduates expressed the need for help to get back home to their various counties. A representative of the UNDP/JIU informed the ex-combatants that they should have saved their money.
Observing the expressions on the trainees’ faces, ADA’s consultant quickly stepped in to calm the situation and prevent a riot. These trainees had only received US$30 per month from the UNDP/JIU. At the time, the price of rice was US$22 per bag The trainees had struggled to care for their dependents on one bag of rice, leaving only $8 in their pockets. How was it possible to spread the remaining $8 to cover essentials like soup or stew to go with the rice or provide clothing and medical care for their children? ADA retained some of the trainees as security personnel, some helped renovate the LOIC Computer Training Centre, some were hired as assistants for training projects in the leeward counties, and others anxiously waited for resettlement funding.
ADA was immediately faced with a cash flew dilemma when it took several months for the UNDP to issue contracts for the next training period. Ambassador McIntosh. was ‘stretched to revolving source of income to sustain the operation now that the first eight months training programme was over.
But in September 2005, the UNDP signed a second contract with ADA to train 4,000 ex-combatants in Bong, Lofa, Margibi, Montserrado and Nimba Counties.
However, instead of additional funding for the virtually impassable roads. indicative of the lack of infrastructure in the leeward counties, the UNDP rather reduced ADA’s funding by an average of over US$100 per trainee instead of increasing the amount to enable ADA to operate where there was, and still is no infrastructure.
Although disheartened, McIntosh had no choice but to take what was offered and soldier on despite the circumstances. His goal to regenerate food production in Liberia far outweighed the inadequate funding provided by the UNDP. There seemed to he little understanding of the fact that Liberians were coming out ofl4 years of civil war.
Thank God, those with the ability to impact the society still wanted to participate In the rebuilding process. in order to do this, they needed funding to help set up offices and purchase vehicles to run the programmes. In the end, ADA received about 5% management overhead funding for projects while international NGOs received more.
It appeared no consideration was given to the fact that the international NOOs raised millions of dollars in the US, Europe and Canada for their operations. They could, therefore, easily afford the big 4X4 vehicles, office and housing accommodation. In fact, at one of the Joint Implementation Unit 1U) meetings, Assefaw Tewolde, the UNDP? disbursement officer, said that some of the international NGOs completed the entire project and did not even bother to collect their monthly or quarterly handing allocations. They just
did the job and presented their reports at the end of it for a one- time funding from the UNDP. From all indications, empowering the interactional NGOs rather than the local African NGOs was the order of the day. But ADA has always maintained that special consideration should be provided to local NGOs. They are the ones needing empowerment in order to build their capacity for sustainable development once the international NGOs move out.
Why donors should help ADA:
Factions in the conflict in neighboring Côte d’ Voire are already recruiting Liberian:. youths to fight for them. This is a bad omen for Liberian and the wider region, it is why ADA needs more donor support to encourage ex-combatants to join Monrovia Central Prison.
On 2 February 2006, the Monrovia newspaper, The News, reported that: “A notorious battlefront commander of the disbanded Revolutionary United Front (RUE) of Siena Leone, Gen. Joseph Samba alias ‘High Command’ has been arrested in [Liberia’s] Nimba County for his alleged involvement in the recruitment of ex-fighters. ‘High Command, according to a highly-placed security source, was apprehended last weekend in Ganta by UNMIL civilian police assigned in the area following a tip-off.
According to our source, the general had been in and out of Ganta since the disarmament process… Our source said an Ivorian rebel group hired the service of ‘High Command’ and boss, Sans, in 2001” In 2004, ADA became an implementing partner of UNHCR to develop local community agriculture; water and sanitation projects and the renovation of the LOIC
computer training Centre. ADA enrolled 4,511 new trainees under UNDP funding for the second eight-month training phase following validation of the ex-combatants through the
UNDP database to ensure that the trainees had gone through the disarmament and demobilization process, and that they had not benefited from other skills training programmes. Training of women in agriculture cultivation plays a major role in developing food security in Liberia. According to the 2006 report of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO): “530,000 annual deaths of women worldwide could have possibly been prevented dining pregnancy and child birth” with proper nutrition Six million children die annually from mal nutrition worldwide. Liberia, which lithe abundant rich soil, good climate and eight months of rain to complement year-round rice and vegetable production, should be able to help alleviate malnutrition in the West African sub-region, if not the entire African continent.
As the adult literacy training programme took off over 71% of trainees who signed up for the programme were women. ADA provides opportunities for trainees to become involved in skirt making. It also engages in human rights advocacy white providing malaria, TB, personal hygiene and good HIV/Aids awareness and prevention information. ADA’s medical staff continues to offer basic medical care, and provides referrals to local hospitals and clinics in the Monrovia area. in 2004, ADA consultants conducted the first ever
HI V/Aids training workshops for the Islamic community beginning with 105 imams, and later women and youths. The programme was funded by the US embassy and the ADA consultants in Monrovia, The consultants were facilitated by Liberia’s National Aids Control Programme. (NACP). In 2005, Ambassador McIntosh and the consultants funded an HIV/Aids workshop for inmates of the Monrovia Central Prison.
At the end of 2005, the UNHCR offered the management of the Roberts field Highway Transit Centre to ADA, along with the establishment of a Resource Centre, to assist Liberian refugees returning from their various countries of asylum. lased on ADA’s performance in 2004 and 200.5, Ambassador McIntosh was able to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding (MO U) with the Liberian Ministry ofAgriculture to cultivate thousands of acres of government upland and swampland in Bong, Grand Gedeh, Lofa and Nimba counties.
According to the former Minister of Agriculture George Karmee and his deputy Anderson, Liberia has seen enough beautiful international NGO signs (with no projects behind them) and a lot of chatter, but ADA has been the one on the ground, training and offering extension services to bring the country’s agricultural development to fruition. As the November 2005 general elections drew near, many former fighters who were told by their leaders that there would be reprisals against them, did not come forward to identify themselves and disarm during the official UNMIL/UNDP disarmament process.
Following the election of Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the new president of Liberia and not George Weah whom many former fighters had supported, they were frightened that they too might face charges along with former President Charles Taylor. Ex-combatants who had confidence in Ambassador McIntosh’s. desire to help them acquire skills and reintegrate them into their communities came to the office to see if he would help them disarm in 2006.
ADA welcomed the challenge and contacted Steve Ursino, the UNDP country representative in Liberia, who put them in contact with Napoleon Abdullah, director of the UNDP’s Small Arms Division. Shortly after the inaugural ceremony for Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Ambassador McIntosh arranged a meeting at the ADA office between representatives of the (JNDP and the Government of Liberia, including LURD generals (one of the warring factions)and ADA consultants.
One of the LURD generals (a young man) expressed the fear that he might be arrested. McIntosh asked him if he had money to buy rice during the war, He said, ‘No’, “Did you. buy any bullets or guns during the war?” asked Macintosh. Again the young man answered, “No”. “I don’t think you are the one they are looking for,” Macintosh told him matter-of-factly.
A government representative further assured the young map: “The Old Ma [referring to Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf wants you young men trained so you can get jobs and take eared your children. When Pa comes home, the Old Ma wants Pa to have something for the children.” A series of meetings followed to determine the most effective plan for the immediate disarmament of the young people and their menthol in the ADA training programme. The outcome resulted in a S)0-day window of opportunity provided, by the Government of Liberia for the former fighters to lay down their arms and go to school: or join skills training programmes.
ADA continues the expansion of its integrated farming and ranching training programme to: include not only year-round rice and vegetable production, building water wells, central and periphery canals, dams, drying huts, and local structures, but also animal husbandry (cattier pigs, goats), poultry farming and fish culture, etc. ADA advocates. for local communities to be centered around agricultural production.
The inter-locking block- making machine that ADA recently imported from South Africa will further diversify ADA’s building construction skills training programme. With 5-10% cement and local soil, ADA trainers will learn to produce an average of 3,000 high-pressed blocks every eight hours, With these blocks and prefab trusses, windows, screens and doors, trainees will learn to build the type of permanent structures that will help prevent women and children from mosquitoes, other insects arid pests. Liberia has. one of the highest rates of stillborn births caused by malaria during pregnancy.
Many of those Liberians who spoke to this outlet, expressed optimistic of Mr. McIntosh’s leadership for Liberia, noting that has always been there for the common man, even during the height of the Liberian civil war he was always with them
From what many are saying, there is a strong possibility based on what people know, Ambassador Wendell McIntosh could easily win the pending election, according to some of his beneficiaries
ADA continues to seek external funding for firming machinery to accelerate upland agricultural production on land provided by the government under the MOU. ADA’s drive is to provide food security for the Liberian people will reduce malnutrition, food relief, child soldiers, the use of little girls and boys as sex slaves. HIV/Aids, healthcare burden, unemployment, gender-based violence, crime, etc. while improving the local, county and national economy.
ADA is currently operating 39 projects in the following counties:
Bong County Kpatawe Grand Gedeh County Blown Town, Douge Town, Goyeazon,
Kayetowu, Schenniwhen, Toe’s Town, Tonaon, Zwedni Loin Borkeza, Fop. Kolahun,
Voinjama, Wealla, Zorzor Margibi County Cotton wee, Kakata Montserrado County
15th Gate, Duport Road, Resource Central Canon, Jatnats & George Town, Kingsvllle,
Mot1cal (White Plains), Nancy Walker (White Plains), Robertsfleld Transit centre, Robertsville (White Plains), Tartee’s Town, Whede’s Town Nimba County Cbleden, Ganta, Karnplay, Kpaiplay, Loguotuo, Mal-Diaplay, Saclepea, Sanniquelliee, Vayanglay and Zeiglay