Liberia: More Awareness Needed on Food Security Framework


— ECOWAS CAADP Non State Actors Coalition Rep. Recommends 

By Judoemue M. Kollie

A representative of the ECOWAS Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) Non-State Actors Coalition in Liberia, H. Augustus Roberts says there is a need for more awareness on the CAADP Malabo food security framework in Liberia to enhance the understanding of stakeholders.   

Roberts said adequate education has not been provided over the years on the importance of the framework to involve stakeholders.  

According to him, if Liberia is to meet the objectives of the African food and nutrition security framework stakeholders from diverse backgrounds must be involved.

He spoke on a local radio station upon his return from the recent CAADP Biennial Review (BR) meeting held in Nairobi, Kenya.  

The CAADP framework, once commonly referred to as the “Maputo Declaration”, was established in 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique by African presidents. It mandates every government to allot 10 percent of their total national budget for agriculture to obtain 6 percent GDP annually and to develop a National Agriculture Investment Plan (NAIP).

However, after realizing shortcomings on the implementation of the framework by most countries on the continent, in 2014, African leaders met in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea and recommitted to the framework to Accelerate Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods. This is commonly known as the Malabo Declaration for Food and Nutrition Security.

This recommitment led to the setting up of targets, along with seven commitments based on what African leaders referred to as a commitment to implementation, delivery and results.

One of the key commitments was #7, which is “Commitment to Mutual Accountability to Actions and Results.” 

This commitment calls for a systematic regular review process after every 2-years initiated to complete with a scoring system in order to track the progress being made by African governments in achieving, what is referred to as, the CAADP/Malabo goals.

Liberia recommitted to the CAADP framework, however, the government has not done enough when it comes to the issue of implementation. Though the country has developed the Liberia Agriculture Sector Investment Plan (LASIP), a domestication of the framework yet public support for agriculture has since been lacking. Support largely depends on donor funding.

The chairpersons of the Senate and House Committees on Agriculture, Senator Jim Tornolah from Margibi and Representative Prince Tokpa, from Nimba represented Liberia at the recent BR process meeting in Nairobi.

Roberts said the involvement of the African lawmakers at the meeting was cardinal to ensuring that the framework is being implemented by the members’ countries.

According to him, this was the first time for Liberian lawmakers to participate in the BR process.

“The meeting precisely aimed to involve African lawmakers this time. This helps them to know the performances of countries toward the implementation of the framework. There is a feeling that lawmakers don’t have much knowledge about the CAADP and there is a need that we have them involved to know the results of the various countries. I think this meeting went well. I had the responsibility to get some of our lawmakers to attend,” he said.

Roberts said that Liberia has not done well on previous BR processes, something he mentioned could also be due to the lack of awareness.

“We feel that the country can do better provided that more awareness is carried out,” he added.

“We still need to hold the President accountable too. The President should be involved if he really wants the country to perform,” he explained.

President George M. Weah has since pronounced agriculture a priority of his administration but public funding for agriculture is still lacking during his tenure.

According to Roberts, in 2017 they established the Non-State Actors Coalition to increase awareness about the framework, but the Group has not gotten the needed support to engage stakeholders.

“We had several meetings that were well attended with the presence of some major donors. But since the change of administration we haven’t been able to regroup. My role has been trying to continue providing education by working with the Ministry of Agriculture in several of its engagements. But the issue of awareness is a big struggle. We have had support before from other donors but our major problem is the lack of budget to promote awareness,” he said.

Roberts said the agriculture investment plan that the country developed before brought together all of the partners. 

“Every investor must look at our agricultural plan if they want to invest. There have been some interventions by projects but agriculture will not improve the sector with projects,” he said. 

He mentioned that it is expected that the lawmakers will get more involved in their country’s implementation of the CAADP and BR processes, especially providing the necessary budget support to these processes.

According to him, one of the main constraints facing Liberia to justify performance is the collection of data to inform the public on how the government has been able to perform over the years.

“The review requires that we know how many people were employed in agriculture and how people in the sector were able to access loans for agriculture,” he said. 

Roberts mentioned that there are no mechanisms in place to make sure that African governments can commit what they promised to do. 

“It is not the Ministers of Agriculture who signed the document but it was the Presidents.  Because there was no mechanism put in place by African governments, this brought into the issue of mutual accountability to measure how countries perform after every two years. If a president of a country gets to know that his or her country did not perform well then he or she will make sure to do better next time,” he said. 

The ECOWAS Non State Actors Coalition representative said the AU expects that if Liberia makes a commitment she must live up to that commitment. 

“There is no mechanism for punishment but each country's performance is shown. It is the responsibility of leaders of every African country to make sure that they perform well. This is one of the reasons why we taught lawmakers to get involved so that they can see where they are. For instance if Liberia will see a country like Rwanda that as well experienced war can be rated for good scores, maybe that will motivate our lawmakers or the president,” he added.

Why the 10 percent for agriculture.

Roberts said there are divided views about the 10 percent total national budget for agriculture, something he mentioned that it is a very sticky issue but needs to be clearly defined.

“The 10 percent is a serious issue for most countries and not only Liberia. But our country has declared agriculture as the foundation of the economy since it was founded. Therefore, the CAADP is not something new for us. There are many arguments about the 10 percent. Some people want this to be for salaries but we want it for direct support for agriculture,” he clarified. 

He said countries that have allotted the 10 percent for agriculture are doing well because they are experiencing agricultural productivity. 

“The 10 percent is going to help the country and we as Non-State Actors want to have others to understand what exactly it is about,” he continued. 

Multi Sectorial Approach to enhance coordination on the framework

He disclosed that first CAADP which was the Maputo only concentrated on agriculture but later African leaders said no it should be more multi sectoral.

“When it became the Malabo Declaration, it included not only agriculture but food and nutrition security. This means that the framework revision has become a cross cutting issue,” he clarified.

“Though it is the Ministry of Agriculture that should manage the sector, it requires the involvement of other sectors. Maybe, the problem is that we haven’t played our role well to get the various ministries and agencies on board with the food security issue. But they do have a role to play. Recently, I have written to the Ministry of Finance to see how we can bring them on board,” he added. 

Roberts stressed the need for a complete comprehensive review of the framework process in Liberia with the involvement of all sectors if the country is to improve food and nutrition security.

“It is important that we have a complete comprehensive review of the CAADP process. If the CAADP is implemented well Liberia can be developed. All the players need to be on board to talk about the issue of the CAADP. They all need to come on board,” he reiterated. 

He emphasized that as a Non-state actor, he is looking forward to the lawmakers to inform the President about the CAADP process in Liberia.