Liberia and Japan have signed two separate agreements aimed at enhancing Liberia's food security and boosting the country's energy sector.
The two agreements, valued at a total of US$33.5 million, are the Food Aid Grant and the Monrovia Power System Project agreements.
The Food Aid Grant is valued at about US$8.5 million while the Monrovia Power System Project is put at US$25 million. Both ceremonies were held Thursday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan signed on behalf of the Liberian Government during both ceremonies while Japan's Ambassador to Liberia, H.E. Naoto Nikai signed for Japan for the Food Aid Grant while Mr. Jiro Inamura, Chief Representative of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed for his country during the Monrovia Power System Project agreement.
Foreign Minister Ngafuan expressed happiness over the Japanese Food Aid Grant which he said has narrowed the wide gap between Liberia's rice production and natural resource endowment.
Japan's food aid intervention has reduced Liberia's reliance from its 100% rice importation in 2006 to its current 60% importation rate.
Minister Ngafuan said the Liberian Government is profusely grateful for Japan's assistance to Liberia and its' continuous support to Liberia's recovery since both countries established diplomatic ties in 1962.
He said the agreement will primarily improve Liberia's food sovereignty. The Foreign Minister then recounted the huge impact Japan's Food Assistance Program has been having in Liberia, particularly in Lofa, Gbarpolu, Bong, Grand Gedeh and Nimba Counties.
Japanese Ambassador Nikai, for his part, said his government is glad to be responding to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's request to his government during her October's visit to that country this year.
He stressed that food security is vital to Liberia's recovery, adding that Japan's aid of addressing food security will help to make rice more available and affordable in Liberia.
With the aim of addressing the issue of food security and also for the country to become more self-sufficient, the Japanese Government is taking several interventions including Japan's funding of the World Bank's West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP) in support of the Rice Research and Productivity Program, the Japanese Ambassador said.
Japan began the provision of Food Aid to Liberia since 2003 through both bilateral and international organization channels. The Japanese Envoy revealed that the successful implementation of the last Food Aid to Liberia boosts confidence, leading to the new Food Aid Agreement.
Agriculture Minister Dr. Florence Chenoweth, who also witnessed the signing ceremony, added that Japan's food assistance program to Liberia has helped changed the scope of the World Food Program (WFP) aid to Liberian school children. She said there is no other program that has impacted Liberia's rice production than that of the Japanese.
The Agriculture Minister then lauded the Japanese for its seed rice contribution to local Liberian farmers. Deputy Commerce Minister, Axel M. Addy who deputized for the Commerce Minister stated that the aid has allowed lots of Liberian consumers to save a lot of money on the country's stable food.
Other high powered Liberian Government officials who attended the program included the Acting Minister of Public Works, Steven Yekerson and the Deputy Foreign Minister for International Cooperation, Sando Wayne.
Meanwhile, the Governments of both countries Thursday signed another agreement aimed at financing the rehabilitation of the Monrovia Power Assistance Project whereby Japan will provide approximately US$25 million.
The approximate period for the implementation of power agreement will be a two-year duration at which time a new 10MW power plant will enable more people in Monrovia to have access to electricity by 2015.
According to the Agreement, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on behalf of the Japanese Government will implement this project along with the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) and the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy.
Expressing gratitude on behalf Liberia following the signing the agreement, Foreign Minister Ngafuan applauded the Japanese government for this remarkable support to the Liberia's energy sector. He stated that the two agreements are great Christmas gifts for Liberia and Liberians.
Acting Lands, Mines and Energy Minister Sam Russ used the occasion to re-emphasize the importance of energy in Liberia's recovery process. Chief Representative of JICA, Mr. Inamura, said the Rehabilitation of Monrovia Power System is a remarkable project for Liberians, the first grant aid project through JICA after the Liberian civil war.