14 June 2018

Liberia - Agriculture Ministry, Ci Launch New Program to Tackle Deforestation

Monrovia — The Ministry of Agriculture, with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and Conservation International (CI) recently launched the Good Growth Partnership (GGP) under the theme: Taking Deforestation out of Commodity Supply Chains.

According to Ronald Cumberbatch, Project Manager, (GGP) the partnership, which is initiated by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and now led by the UNDP's Green commodities programs in collaboration with (CI), The International Financing Corporation, UN Environment and World Wildlife Fund for Nature, concentrates on advancing an integrated, supply chain approach to tackling the underlying roots causes of deforestation from agriculture commodities, specifically palm oil in Liberia.

"In Liberia, the Good Growth Partnership is building on the work of the government as well as implementing partners, to systemically change the way Oil Palm is produced in Liberia. The aim is to encourage increased productivity without expanding into forests. This will be achieved through convening diverse stakeholders around a common vision and agenda for action - a National Oil Palm strategy; and by supporting the Liberian government to fortify their support to farmers and to reform laws, policies as well as enforcement systems," said Cumberbatch.

He said the project will contribute to addressing the challenge by concentrating on the production of one of the main commodities driving these worrisome trends of oil palm. This project, which runs from 2017 to 2021, will focus on sustainable oil palm production in four counties in Western Liberia, including Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu and Bong Counties.

Laying the premise as to why the program was established, GGP Focal person at the Agriculture Ministry, Francis Mwah narrated that there are approximately 220,000 rural people involved with the production of country palm oil. According to him, a little over 75 hectors of the palm oil produced, comes from the wild.

Since 2008 four oil palm companies negotiated with the government for oil palm concession.

"The issue of land grabbed and high concerns over low deforestation in the concession areas has severely limited the concession from efficient oil palm production. As a total of 873,143 hectors gross concession areas, only 15,021 hectors have been planted since 2010," disclosed Mwah.

He further narrated that in 2008, the UK-based Equatorial Oil Palm obtained 182,000 hectors, to do oil palm concession. While Sime Derby of Malaysia, was granted 220,000 hectors in 2009 for Oil Palm concession. In 2010, 350,000 hectors, concession agreement was granted to Golden Veroleum, an Indonesian oil palm company. And in 2011, a West African company of La Côte d'Ivoire received permission to restore and develop 808,000 hectors for the Mary Land Oil Palm Plantation.

Agriculture Minister Dr. Mogana Flomo, who officially launched the GGP project, said it will help the country improve its oil palm sector as it has been involved in the production for many years now and has not been able to sustainably do it effectively and at the same time be able to conserve the forest.

"This project is very important because it is going to help us to know how to raise money from oil palm production, at the same time protect our forest. This is a very great initiative that the government of Liberia, led by President George Manneh Weah is in support of. We believe that this is going to support the pro-poor agenda, because it has to do with changing the lives of the common people, and lifting them to a new level where they can raise money from oil palm production," he said.

For his part, Pa Lamin Beyai, UNDP Country Director, talked about UNDP working with communities in creating awareness in oil palm production. He pointed out that UNDP has put together the secretariat and a technical working group at the local level and then at the international level.

"The policy level will be at the international level where we will contextualize on how we can have a committee where we can have both oil palm production and forest conservation and the improvement of livelihood. This is supposed to be led by UNDP at the international level and contextualize it at the local level,"

Jessica Donovan, Country Director of Conservation International (CI) and GGP implementing partner, said they are ensuring that Liberia's palm oil develops in a way that it will impact the country without depleting the precious natural resources.

"As a founding member of oil palm working group, CI had to be part of this project that will help the sector achieves its goal in more oil palm production. We look forward in joining the dialogue on stake holder's engagement, small holders and outgrowing fields."

Galah Toto, Platform Manager, said that the main purpose of the platform was to bring together oil palm companies, civil society and other partners to dialogue on improving the oil palm sector. He pointed out that one of the functions of the platform is to safe guard for social environmental communities, such as deforestation and habitat destruction.

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