MONROVIA – One of the most notoriously visible tragedies which has plagued the growth and development of Liberia, Africa’s oldest republic, is the country’s inability to feed its paltry population despite the availability of abundant arable land for food production and the infusion of colossal resources by international organizations and foreign nations to help the situation. Intermittently, famines strike, and when there is a shortage of food, mainly the national staple, rice, the country edges on total desperation and despondency. The African Development Bank Group appears to be in tune with the country’s quagmire and is poised to make a giant move to help put Liberia on track with its food-security initiatives. As The Analyst reports, the AfDB has offered a whopping $5.12 million in a financing agreement with Government.
It has been announced in Monrovia that the Board of directors of the African Development Bank Group has approved financing for the Emergency Food Production Program in Liberia in order to pave the way for the government to support farmers as they increase climate resilient food production and mitigate the impact of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The funding includes a grant of $2.28 million and a loan of $2.84 million from the Bank Group’s Transition Support Facility.
Agriculture is a major part of Liberia’s economy, AfDB believes, and it contributes about 26% to Liberia’s GDP.
The country’s major crops are rubber, rice, cassava, bananas and palm oil, with cassava and rice being the primary staple food crops, but the organization contends that the overall agricultural productivity is low.
“This is because of such factors as weak basic infrastructure, including farm equipment and inadequate farm-to-market roads,” the group said in the statement announcing the financing agreement. “There is also limited application of fertilizers and pesticides, and inadequate food storage capacity. The civil conflict the country experienced between 1989 and 2003 and the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015 compounded challenges even further.”
According to the Bank, nearly 50% of Liberia’s population is considered food insecure, and childhood malnutrition is persistent. Currently, 35% of children under 5 are stunted and 15% of these children are underweight.
It states further: “The food production program in Liberia is part of sector budget support under the African Development Bank’s African Emergency Food Production Facility (AEFPF). This facility is designed to increase climate resilient food production for Africa’s farmers in the wake of such global shocks as the war in Ukraine and rising fuel and fertilizer prices.
“The African Emergency Food Production Facility will provide 20 million African smallholder farmers with certified seeds. It will increase access to agricultural fertilizers and enable them to rapidly produce 38 million tons of food – a $12 billion increase in food production in just two years.”
The Bank asserts that the Liberia program—which will be implemented from 2022 to 2024—will enable the government to provide direct smart subsidies (that create incentives for private sector investment in the inputs market without distorting the market), to vulnerable farmers.
The financing will also enable the government to facilitate farmers’ access to improved seeds and fertilizers, it said further.
“We welcome this timely and highly awaited approval, which will improve food and nutrition security in Liberia and the regulatory environment for climate-smart agriculture,” said the African Development Bank’ country manager for Liberia, Benedict Kanu. He added: “With healthy Liberians being arguably the greatest asset the country can have, hardly any other priority could be more pressing than addressing food insecurity to safeguard the calorie and nutrition needs of Liberians and protecting their human development.”
The African Emergency Food Production Facility has already benefitted 26 countries in Africa with 26 programs worth $1.257 billion.