Liberia's struggle for homegrown food

Supporting Responsible Investments in Agriculture and Food Systems

In March 2021, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and ZOA Liberia presented a study about the future of sustainable food production in Liberia. The results were presented 1.5 year after both organisations signed an agreement to conduct a research and learning programme jointly. FAO intended to support policy makers in Liberia with strengthened capacities. To achieve this, a baseline study was needed based on the Liberian context.

The programme supports the achievement of the first two Sustainable Development Goals – the eradication of hunger and poverty by 2030. A prerequisite to achieve these two goals is a major increase in agricultural investments. More food is needed to avoid hungry stomachs and farmers can make a living from agriculture. The baseline study investigated the most appropriate ways to achieve these goals in the Liberian context.

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Liberia, a country in West-Afica with a population of ± 5 million people is relatively poor. Although the country is rich in natural resources, has a favorable climate and a fertile soil, much of the food needed to feed the nation is still imported. There is a huge and currently unlocked potential in the agricultural sector. The baseline research focused on this and further investigated the so-called enabling environment. This refers to all that is needed for effective functioning of the agricultural sector. FAO (and many others) are interested in this because this would ensure more effective and efficient investments in the future. Research on strengthening the enabling environment is motivated by two main factors:

  1. The enabling environment is one of the main determinants of the volumes and outcomes of agricultural investment, including both small and large-scale investment.
  • The better the enabling environment is functioning, the better the returns
  1. Previous research by FAO highlighted the need for targeted activities to raise awareness and strengthen capacities of key stakeholders to improve the enabling environment for responsible investment in agriculture and food systems.
  • People have influence on the enabling environment and thus need to be involved in the process

The baseline study was published by FAO in March 2021. Liberia’s country context is fully investigated as well as the institutional/formal context and the traditional/informal context. The report concludes with factors for consideration, potential tensions and risk and, most importantly, the opportunities to strengthen the enabling environment and the most promising areas for investment in agriculture.

Besides the baseline study, ZOA Liberia supported the delivery of a subsequent joint learning programme for Liberian and Sierra Leonean policy makers. Due to the pandemic, this programme was executed online and included workshops and a mentoring programme.