Traveling to Lofa County in the northern-most portion of Liberia is no simple task. Transportation in Monrovia—the capital of Liberia—is challenging enough, let alone trying to arrange transportation to a county on the border of Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Public transport means sharing a taxi with several others and their cargo, plus frequent stops to unload passengers and cargo as well as subsequent stops to fill the taxi where they left a void. The other option, renting a private vehicle, is costly due to the distance and road conditions which require a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
After the most recent election, peace has brought cautious optimism to the country along with a flood of international development organizations. With this influx of international work comes an influx of foreigners needing transport to carry out their programs throughout the country. Private, all-terrain vehicles are a prized possession and the rent for these vehicles is high (as much as $150 per day for travel to distant counties). SADS, operating on a small, largely grant-funded budget, has to rely on specific project funding in order to be able to travel to Lofa or Nimba counties to do their capacity building and training work. Thus, high transportation costs such as these limits the ability for SADS staff to carry out their work.
During the rainy season, roads are covered in water and suffer from numerous potholes. Once off the paved roads, gullies and washouts are commonplace. For these reasons, our trip to Lofa County took nearly seven hours. With a late start we arrived to Konia, the main town in the Ziama Clan in Lofa County, late in the night.
While non-governmental organizations are often under funding constraints, what is readily apparent is the challenge for those people living in Lofa County is the difficulty in getting to a major town to be able to buy and sell goods, receive medical attention or attend high school (as most often only elementary schools are located in small towns).
With a national government budget of just over $100 million, funds for infrastructure development are limited. In a country attempting to rebuild their entire electric, transport and market systems, funds for road improvements in remote areas are quite limited. At the same time, further development of roads into forested areas often means greater deforestation, which is a challenge SADS is working to abate.
Despite these challenges, I was able to spend two weeks in Lofa County, meeting courageous, optimistic people. In the coming blogs, I will highlight these people and their stories.
Posted By Adam Welti
Posted Jun 29th, 2009