4 April 2014

Africa: Liberian President Visits IFAD to Discuss Expanding Development of Rural Communities

press release

Rome — The President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo F. Nwanze, met today with President of the Republic of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, at the Fund's headquarters in Rome to discuss the importance of transforming the rural areas of developing countries around the world.

"Liberia is grateful for the support we received from IFAD during the critical moments in our history," Johnson Sirleaf said. "The intervention of IFAD has had a very positive impact on our post-conflict process."

Liberia was ranked among the world's top 10 fastest growing economies in 2012. But the impact of political instability and civil conflicts that engulfed the country for years continues to plague rural areas in the form of dilapidated infrastructure, high unemployment and inadequate professional capacity. While agriculture is Liberia's largest employer, productivity is very low with post-harvest losses exceptionally high.

"Our partnership with Liberia shows that rural development can address a range of social dimensions," Nwanze said. "We often talk of creating a climate for investment; we are also trying to create a climate of peace."

Following a 20-year suspension because of the conflicts, the Fund resumed its work in 2009 to support rebuilding the country's rural areas. This has included developing more competitive, efficient and sustainable food and agriculture value chains and linkages to markets, as well as strengthening the country's human and institutional capacity.

IFAD's experience of working in post-conflict and fragile states has shown that sustainable, inclusive development and creating opportunities for rural people and marginalised communities not only boost economic growth, but can work as an engine for peace as well.

The visit of Africa's first female head of state to IFAD headquarters comes on the heels of her stopover earlier this year to the IFAD Smallholder Tree Crop Revitalization Support Project in Lofa County, in the north of Liberia.

While there she saw first-hand how rural women, youth, and war-wounded and disabled people can raise their incomes when they are given the right support.

The IFAD-supported project, which was designed to foster the production of high-quality cocoa and coffee products, including organic, is the first of its kind in the country to establish partnership between the public and private sectors. In this case, a private exporter joined forces with the Ministry of Agriculture to revitalize smallholder coffee and cocoa plantations. The company has invested more than US$1 million for training, vehicles and capital, and it pays farmers up to 50 per cent more than traditional intermediaries.

During her stay in Rome, Johnson Sirleaf, co-Chair of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2015 development agenda, made a keynote speech and took part in discussions at a high-level event at which the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), IFAD and the World Food Programme (WFP) unveiled the results of their joint work to on targets and indicators for the new global development paradigm.

So far, IFAD has financed five programmes and projects in Liberia for a total investment of $41.4 million benefitting 124,000 households.

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