News Release

Lifting Lives of Families in Liberia

How the World Food Programme and the Church are helping Liberians become self-reliant

When you look into the eyes of the children at the elementary school in Careysburg, Liberia, it’s easy to think of Jesus’s eternal love for them. 

“He said, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of God,’” said Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, President of the Africa West Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “And that’s what we should do. And that’s what we are doing here in Liberia.”

Elder Nielsen and his Second Counselor, Elder Alfred Kyungu, spent this past week observing the fruits of the work of the World Food Programme (WFP) in various parts of Liberia. The Church of Jesus Christ is helping fund WFP’s global efforts to address food insecurity.

B-roll & SOTs

In Liberia, nearly 84% of families live on less than US$1.25 a day, and 47% of households are food insecure. This is due in part to a 14-year civil war (1989–2003) that crippled national infrastructure and basic social services.

Elder Nielsen and Elder Kyungu joined World Food Program USA President and CEO Barron Segar to observe the home-grown school feeding program supported by WFP, and took some time to assist in serving meals to school children in Careysburg (about 20 miles east of Monrovia) on Wednesday, January 17, 2024.

“To see the look on these kids’ faces when we handed them a meal was really unbelievable,” Segar said. “They were looking at [the food] because they know that it’s probably their only meal for the day.”

Since last year, Careysburg Elementary School has been blessed by this joint initiative. Students receive hot meals daily which, depending on the season, may contain locally produced crops such as rice, beans, red palm oil and gari from cassava. WFP also gave the school a fuel-efficient stove. Additional produce from the new school garden, supported by WFP, supplements their meals and helps children learn gardening skills.

Segar said school enrollment has doubled since the initiative launched.

“The kids are healthy, they’re fortified, they’re learning,” Segar said. “Without food, these kids don’t come to school, they’re hungry and they can’t learn.”

“When I witness this, I’m a changed individual,” Elder Nielsen added. “To see all of these young people being educated here in Liberia and getting some much-needed food brings me joy… [we are helping] them become something that perhaps they didn’t feel they could become. My heart is so tender right now. My heart is so warm for what we’re trying to do here and what we're trying to accomplish.”

The convoy of WFP and Church leaders also visited rural communities in neighboring Bongo County, where some 750 farmers and their families are learning to be self-sufficient at the Margbeh Farmers’ Cooperative.

This cooperative is one of several smallholder farmers cooperatives supported by WFP in collaboration with Liberia’s Ministry of Agriculture through funding provided by the Church of Jesus Christ. The cooperative’s agribusiness center enhances the participants’ food security, nutrition and income.

WFP Liberia's Country Director Aliou Diongue, said the difference between now and a year ago before this project began tells a story of hope.

“Those farmers were not organized into cooperatives,” Diongue said. “There was no farmers association. They had no land. Now, when you look they have land, they are starting to develop the land — and the land is their property. Developing the land, they increase the production.”

WFP provides training on agricultural production. Beyond providing rice for their own family’s needs, farmers plant, grow, harvest, process, preserve and sell as a group, allowing them to negotiate the price.

“We built an agribusiness center because we want them to be modern. We want them to be connected to the world. We want them to be connected regionally. We want them to be connected nationally where they can have a very strong footprint in the markets. And this center is equipped with all the machinery.”

One of those farmers, Martin George, said the hard work of sowing and cultivating and reaping is his passion.

“There is no more hunger in my house because the community, everybody, works together,” George said. “And at the end of the day, we go to the retailer's shop, and we get the food. I’m so happy because I have food in my house. When you have food, you are a happy man.”

Beyond full bellies and joyful homes, the self-reliance engendered by this initiative is indispensable.

“The cooperative farming communities are coming together not only to feed these [families], but also to create income so that they can become sustainable so that they don’t need the work or the funding from the Church or the World Food Programme,” Segar said.

Elder Kyungu noted the commitment and hard work of women working on the farm.

“I admired them. They have a great sense of who they are,” Elder Kyungu said. “You see that energy, that commitment, that hard work. They believe. They are great women of faith. They trust in Heavenly Father.”

Elder Nielsen said, “We’re looking at it as an Area Presidency of what's going to happen in 10 to 15 to 20 to 50 years, and we are trying to create the foundation of self-reliance principles with all the people we lead,” Elder Nielsen said. “We don’t want to give handouts without people doing something to improve themselves. The whole self-reliance principle to me is, ‘Teach them now, help them now,’ — especially with these young people so they can become not only the leaders tomorrow, but also the leaders today.”

About the World Food Programme

The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

World Food Program USA, a 501(c)(3) organization based in Washington, D.C., proudly supports the mission of the United Nations World Food Programme by mobilizing American policymakers, businesses and individuals to advance the global movement to end hunger. Our leadership and support help to bolster an enduring American legacy of feeding families in need around the world. Learn more about World Food Program USA’s mission at wfpusa.org.

About Humanitarian Services of the Church of Jesus Christ

The Church’s 2022 annual report on caring for those in need shows that the faith’s efforts to care for those in need included more than $1 billion in expenditures, 6.3 million hours volunteered and 3,692 humanitarian projects in 190 countries and territories.

The humanitarian efforts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints relieve suffering, foster self-reliance and provide opportunities for service. The Church follows the admonition of Jesus Christ to feed the hungry and care for those in need.

This humanitarian outreach is made possible by the generous donations and volunteerism of Latter-day Saints and friends of the faith. The Church gives assistance without regard to race, religious affiliation or nationality. Aid is based on the core principles of personal responsibility, community support, self-reliance and sustainability.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.