The European Union (EU), one of Liberia’s major donor partners, has disclosed that it is considering some strategies to employ in the use of the recently donated €30 million Euros in order to have the needed impact on communities and people for whom it is intended. The donated amount was recently announced for Liberia to support the Cocoa and Fishery sectors.
In an interview with the Daily Observer on Friday, January 13, Alberto Menghini, Head of Cooperation Section-Resilience, EU Delegation to Liberia, underscored solicitation of views of beneficial groups as one of the strategies.
According to Mr. Menghini, they have over the time realized that community ownership is absent in the implementation of projects in Liberia, something they believe needs to change so that beneficiaries will have full participation.
He said the EU implements its projects through non-governmental organizations including ZOA, BRAC, APDRA, among others, and they have been doing fairly well over the period.
Nevertheless, the EU Head of Cooperation-Resilience indicated that perhaps due to poor project design and incapacitated institution, they are unable to meet their set goals.
He said EU considers the €30 million Euro project as an emergency, emphasizing that despite many supports that have come to Liberia, many Liberians still “go to bed without food on their table.”
Menghini also indicated that realizing their goals and objective for the €30 million will require close supervision by the EU.
This aspect, he said, will require him and others to go into the field where projects are implemented to directly interact with beneficiaries so as to establish whether or not they are receiving the needed impact.
Furthermore, Menghini said they have now decided to liaise with the media organize excursions into the field to interview beneficiaries on the impacts of projects. This way, he suggested, journalists would be able to find out whether or not beneficiaries are participating in the project.
He said while the EU is not afraid of criticism, they want journalists to clearly and honestly establish facts about the impacts of EU’s projects on communities so that the general public will develop informed opinions.
He added that they also intend breaking down their activities into simple communication terms to help the public understand what they do.
Based on this communication concept, Mr. Menghini said they have set up a Facebook page where activities of EU will be published and people will be welcome to engage and comment.
The EU official mentioned land rights, bad roads and “petty corruption” as problems they have noticed as constraints they faced in implementing agricultural projects in the country.
With land, he said when communities and individuals are entitled to it and are free to make available portion by their discretion, projects will forge ahead and the impacts will be felt.
He lauded the Liberian government for work done to connect parts of the country by road, but said there are still challenges faced as to how farmers get their goods from the farm to market.
Corruption, according to him, is done when commercial drivers are compelled to pay illegal fees to police and immigration officers at checkpoints.
He said when this is done; drivers in turn levy high costs of transportation fares on farmers which adversely affect consumers in terms of prices of commodities.
While still in the position to support Liberia in its socio-economic drive, the EU Cooperation Section head, however, emphasized that the “dependency syndrome” remains a worrisome situation in Liberia.
He said “I would like to hear Liberians asking partners what do you want us to do instead of telling them (partners) we want you do this for us. International support cannot serve as engine for the development drive of Liberia, but Liberians should be able to drive their own development.”
Meanwhile, of the €30 million Euros announced by the EU, €7 million will go to Fisheries while €8.5 million is allotted for cocoa.
Menghini said the cocoa industry has a huge commercial potential that investing therein will empower farmers to yield fruits of their labor.
According to him the €7 million Euros to the Fishery sector will be used to help organize the Bureau of Fisheries and to also foster legal formality that will support licensing of fishing vessels in Liberia’s territorial waters.
€2 million of the €30 million will go to the Ministry of Agriculture for support to that arm of government while the remaining €12 million will go to selected communities.
Mr. Menghini said benefiting communities will decide what to be done with the €12 million and in line with their decision, EU and partners will use it.