Liberia Critical Humanitarian Gaps Appeal 2008
The Government and people of Liberia have made considerable progress in consolidating peace and starting the country on the road to sustainable recovery since the ending of 14 years of civil conflict in 2006. Despite this, many Liberians remain vulnerable and face acute humanitarian needs on a daily basis. In order to address these needs, the Government is leading efforts to formulate a national Poverty Reduction Strategy.
The country is in a transitional period from emergency to longer-term development and support is needed to assist the most vulnerable households during this time. Extreme poverty and high levels of unemployment were the main contributors to the protracted and violent conflict in Liberia.
Steps are therefore needed to ensure that vulnerabilities are not exacerbated at a time when the nation remains fragile. In 2008, the United Nations (UN) and its partners, recognizing the need to mobilize funding for this transitional period, are focusing advocacy and resource mobilization efforts on the most critical areas and have developed a few projects of the highest priority.
The strategic priorities for humanitarian action in 2008 are:
• provision of basic social services for the vulnerable, especially in underserved areas;
• support for poor communities to become more secure, productive and sustainable; and
• strengthening the capacity of civil society and local authorities to address urgent humanitarian needs of the vulnerable.
Challenges facing food security and livelihoods
Agricultural production, particularly rice and cassava farming, is a key livelihood activity for the people of Liberia. However, during the 14 years of conflict, there was extensive damage to physical infrastructure in the country. Farms were abandoned as hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes and access roads fell into disrepair. Further, the scarcity of staple food commodities has influenced rapid food cost increases. In particular, the price of rice has nearly doubled in the past two months, posing a potentially serious threat to peace and order if not addressed.
The agriculture sector remains characterized by underinvestment, poor productivity, lack of extension services and significant post-harvest losses. Maintaining the quality and quantity of unprocessed products has been identified as a clear priority for the food security sector. The 2006 Comprehensive Food Security and Nutrition Survey noted that approximately half the rural and semi-rural households in Liberia are either food insecure or are extremely vulnerable to food insecurity.
In 2007, the country saw an improved harvest for the first time in many years as a result of the combined efforts of the Government, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations. Although farmers in Liberia have long relied on the importation of seeds and planting materials, the satisfactory rice harvest and production of local seeds, in particular, have eliminated the need for seed imports for the 2008 season.
However, the increased harvest has highlighted the need to address the significant post-harvest losses, through developing appropriate storage facilities, improving post-harvest technology and ensuring better marketing of agricultural products. In addition, there is a need to reduce the considerable losses caused by pest damage. In 2006 and 2007, the integrated production and pest management (IPPM) programme was developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture and piloted with limited resources. Additional support is thus required in 2008 to extend the IPPM programme. FAO is also supporting Government initiatives in securing emergency supplies to mitigate the scarcity and rapid price increases of staple food commodities.
FAO in Liberia
Since 2006, FAO has been working with other UN agencies to support the creation of a safe and secure environment for local communities and to facilitate the successful return and reintegration of displaced persons and ex-combatants in Liberia. Under the 2008 Critical Humanitarian Gaps Appeal for Liberia, the priorities for the food security sector are:
- protecting crops against pre-harvest losses and mitigating post-harvest losses; and
- responding to disease outbreaks among small ruminants and poultry and preventing rabies in domestic animals.
As part of the 2008 Critical Humanitarian Gaps in Liberia Appeal, FAO is seeking USD 4 975 000