The Government through the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as well as other development partners last Tuesday brainstormed on the development of an agriculture investment plan that will prioritize increased allotment in the annual National Budget for the improvement of the country's agricultural sector.
The Liberia Agriculture Support Investment Plan (LASIP II) is an initiative intended to develop priority agricultural value chains through private sector investments, adopt innovative financing solutions, promote an export-driven industrial policy, and ensure the appropriate business enabling environment.
Mrs. Seklau Wiles, Agriculture Minister, addressing the session, said it cannot be over emphasized that the implementation of LASIP II and its components needs to have a harmonized and coordinated approach related to investing in the country's agriculture sector. .
"Indeed, agriculture is seen by the government, development partners and other actors as an active and dependable sector of the economy that should serve as an engine of growth for development," she said.
Iff supported along the value chain, agriculture has the potential to attract investment that will improve the welfare of the population, promote infrastructure development and significantly contribute to the economic diversification in the country as well as inclusive growth, she said .
"It is in this context that government has developed the Liberia Agriculture Transformation Agenda (LATA), the flagship program within LASIP II to address some of the issues that will be confronting the sector," said the Minister-designate.
Dr. Yaw Osei-Asare, the FAO consultant, stated that a comprehensive country program framework exists, which has been signed to support advocacy, policies, development and capacity building in Liberia.
The FAO consultant noted that these policy documents are vital for all partners, particularly United Nations organizations such as the FAO, to know Liberia's priority in the agriculture sector. He explained that this support is coming through the global arena that FAO has with the European Union.
Mr. Osei-Asare stressed that the global arena is a project called FIRST, which stands for Food and Nutrition, Security Impact, Resilience, Sustainability and Trade that has been implemented in 25 countries so far. According to him, Liberia's agriculture sector can greatly improve with a well-coordinated and harmonized approach. He said once Liberia has a harmonized policy regarding the agriculture sector, every partner will be forced to support investment in the sector.
FAO country representative, Marc Adala, lauded the Liberian government through the Ministry of Agriculture for taking ownership of the program which is geared toward the improvement of the agriculture sector of the country. He assured the continuous support of FAO to Liberia's agriculture sector.
Roland S. Carey, deputy minister for Industrial Promotion and Protection at the Ministry of Commerce, said the government is doing everything possible to prioritize agriculture in Liberia.
"We actually acted to prioritize agriculture to diversify our economy, because it is approximately 60 percent of the GDP and a sector which accounts for the largest labor force," Minister Carey indicated.This is important because it will set Liberia on the genuine path to achieve structural transformation and inclusive growth, he said.
"Our economy diversification program, LATA, focuses on developing selective value chain, agro-processing and light manufacturing, all of which Liberia is competitive and will create jobs." He told the gathering that the economy remains a priority and leveraging competitiveness goes beyond addressing productiveness-constraints at the smallholders level.
He said focus must lie on ensuring firms engaged in value addition and processing of agricultural products actually promote industrialization and create jobs for Liberians. "As a minister responsible for industrial promotion and protection, I know that this is the direction of the Ministry of Commerce under the leadership of Minister Axel Addy; and to achieve this goal, we have been engaging key partners in a number of ways, working to create a more conducive business environment for them," Carey said.
The event provided the opportunity for stakeholders to better understand the Liberia Agriculture Transformation Agenda (LATA) and LASIP II as well as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) framework for building alignments and achieving the mutual accountability, which is in line with the commitment of Heads of State and Governments of the African Union on agriculture, to allot 10 percent to agriculture yearly in the national budget.
Since the adoption of the CAADP in 2005 in Liberia, there has been continued emphasis on agricultural development to strengthen the sector to reach its full potential. The CAADP bears evidence of this prioritization, through key principles and targets that aim to achieve food security, poverty reduction, and agricultural development growth through appropriate strategies, investments, and policy dialogue support.
LASIP, formulated and implemented between 2010 and 2015, identified priority areas from which investment projects were developed and aligned with national objectives, as well as the CAADP. LASIP-I has four key priority areas: Food and Nutrition, Competitive Value Chains and Market Linkages, Institutional Development, and Land and Water Management. The Malabo declaration in June 2014 on "Accelerated Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods," reaffirmed the important role that agriculture play for the growth of Africa. Liberia committed itself to the principle to improve and ensure transparency and inclusiveness of the policy design and planning process.