Liberia: “Gov’t Must Serve As Gatekeeper in Agri. Investment”


— FAO country director asserts

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Representative to Liberia, Mariatou Njie, wants the government to serve as a gatekeeper in the area of agricultural investment.

Njie said through gatekeeping, the Liberian Government can decide which investors will be allowed to conduct agriculture business in Liberia and what types of investments would be permitted.

While acting as gatekeepers, according to Njie, the government would be asking: Do we want this particular investor to invest or operate in Liberia? Do we want this particular investment in Liberia? And is it aligned with Liberia’s overall goals for sustainable development?

She indicated that investment screening is one of the policy mechanisms governments the world over use to pursue these questions. 

"When screening an investment proposal, you can conduct due diligence on the prospective investor and investment to gather information and analyze whether the proposal will lead to a responsible investment in agriculture and food systems," the FAO Representative pointed out.

Njie spoke Thursday at the Farmington Hotel in Lower Margibi County during a two-day high-level meeting on boosting responsible investment in agriculture and food systems in Liberia for sustainable development.

She also described the high-level strategic engagement gathering involving heads of government ministries, agencies, and commissions, including heads of diplomatic missions near Monrovia and heads of international organizations, as another milestone in FAO’s efforts to boost responsible practices in the agriculture and food systems in Liberia.

"This strategic engagement aims at policy and institutional change through the adoption of a screening policy and process for investors and investments in Liberia," Njie said. 

She further disclosed that the screening tools were developed through a full blended learning program that strengthened the capacities of state and non-state actors to apply the ten principles for responsible investment in agriculture and food systems.

These principles, according to Ms. Njie, have been developed following an inclusive multi-stakeholder process in the UN Committee on World Food Security.

Also speaking, German Ambassador Jakob Haselhubur, underscored that stimulating and increasing response to investment in agriculture and food assistance is crucial to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

According to Ambassador Haselhubur, FAO and WFP estimated in the past years that an additional US$140 billion were needed to achieve UN-SDGs 1 and 2 by 2030.

He said that is why the German government has, over the years, provided capacity building programs and technical assistance to strengthen agriculture in the country.

However, Internal Affairs Minister, Varney Sirleaf, dwelled on the involvement of women in the issue of food security and access to land for agricultural production. He noted that women having access to land and their inclusion in the agriculture sector is vital to address food security in Liberia.

Sirleaf said women can play an essential role in the agricultural sector of Liberia once the land rights issue is properly handled; he provided information on a group of women in Nimba County who are part of a cooperative and are doing well in farming activities there.

The two-day meeting held from Thursday, April 13 through Friday, April 14, was organized by FAO and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Monrovia in partnership with the Liberian government.

The event focuses on sharing results from FAO's support to enhancing the enabling environment for responsible investment in agriculture and food systems in Liberia, presenting and validating the responsible investment and investor screening tool with senior policy makers, discussing lessons learned, good practices, and challenges, providing an open space for discussions on responsible agriculture investment in Liberia for concerned stakeholders, and identifying ways forward and priorities for sustained engagement for boosting responsible investment in agriculture and food systems in Liberia to sustainable development.

The meeting brought together government entities and the legislature, technical and financial resource partners, civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations, private sector entities, academia, and research institutions, including other United Nations agencies.

Topics of Liberation included boosting responsible investment in agriculture and food systems in Liberia for sustainable development; enhancing screening policies and processes for responsible investment in agriculture and food systems; a blended learning program on investment screening; commitment and prioritization planning; and a discussion with resource partners on strategic ways forward for Responsible Agriculture Investment (RAI) implementation in Liberia.