Abidjan — The Board of directors of the African Development Bank Group has approved financing for the Emergency Food Production Program in Liberia, paving the way for the government to support farmers to increase climate resilient food production and mitigate the impact of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
The Board approved a grant of $2.28 million and a loan of $2.84 million from the Bank’s Transition Support Facility, on 22 November 2022.
Agriculture is a major sector in Liberia’s economy, contributing about 26% to GDP. The major crops are rubber, rice, cassava, bananas and palm oil. Cassava and rice are the primary staple food crops. However, overall agricultural productivity is low. The is due to factors such as weak basic infrastructure such as farm equipment, inadequate farm-to-market roads, limited application of fertilizers and pesticides, inadequate food storage capacity, as well as civil conflict during 1989-2003 and the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015. Liberia imports about 80% of its rice, making the country vulnerable to international food price volatility. The country has faced chronic food insecurity and severe nutritional deficits due to a range of challenges including extreme poverty and endemic inefficiencies in the country’s food and agricultural systems. Nearly 50% of Liberia s population is considered food insecure, and childhood malnutrition is persistent – 35% of children under 5 are stunted and 15% of them underweight.
The food production program in Liberia constitutes a sector budget support under the African Development Bank’s African Emergency Food Production Facility(AEFPF), which aims to increase climate resilient food production for Africa’s farmers in the wake of global shocks such 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 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.
“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 Benedict Kanu, ADB Country Manager for Liberia. Kanu 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 programmes worth $1.257 billion.