A two-day workshop on the Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) has taken place in Monrovia with participants resolving to support the application of the VGGT principles in Liberia.
The VGGT seeks to contribute to national and global efforts aimed at eradicating hunger and poverty and the promotion of food security, especially for rural inhabitants by safeguarding tenure rights in the context of agricultural land related investment.
Sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the workshop brought together participants from the food security sector including Government of Liberia line ministries and agencies, civil society and community based organizations, concessionaires, private sector and the media.
Speaking to journalists at the close of the workshop, the Sector Coordinator and focus person for VGGT at the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), Michael D. Titoe, said that stakeholders have agreed to change the process of approving agricultural investment in the country.
"The process of approving agricultural investment has caused a lot of problems, particularly regarding mass displacement of citizens in rural areas with no adequate preparation for accommodation to meet their food security needs. The workshop was meant to revise the process of approving investment for agriculture. It seeks to advise government on the need to involve community residents in decision making that allows investors to acquire lands for agricultural purposes," he said.
Titoe stressed that communities must be willing to give out land to avoid conflicts. He said that stakeholders are working expeditiously to complete the validation of the VGGT document to become law.
Francesca Romano, who spoke on behalf of FAO country representative Marc Adala, stated that FAO remains committed to supporting the VGGT process in Liberia.
"Investment into agriculture by investors needs to be done in a responsible manner to avoid conflict therefore the investment review process is significant in improving the lives of rural people," she said.
She disclosed that the FAO has been working hard over the past years to ensure that investment in agriculture is more responsible in both Sierra Leone and Liberia.
"There is an increasing global demand for commodities like palm oil, rice and other crops, but there is a need for a responsible way for investment to be carried out. The objective is to review the investment approval of Liberia that is very crucial to defining who is eligible to carry out investment," she stressed.
In 2015, FAO implemented the blending of learning sessions to support the implementation of the VGGT at country level.
In line with its strategic objectives to 'Make agriculture, forestry and fisheries more productive and sustainable,' the FAO embarked on a series of capacity development seminars involving key government authorities in charge of agricultural investment promotion, approval, and monitoring activities.
In July 2017, a working group consisting of representatives from the governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone and FAO met to review and modify the investment approval process currently in use in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The primary objective of these exercises were to help officials to fulfill their role of targeting investments in a way that furthers national development goals that safeguard tenure and contribute to food security and nutrition.
The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) was endorsed by the World Food Committee in May 2012. The VGGT has received great attention and support by governments, civil society organizations and other stakeholders.