The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2012: Liberia

The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2012: Liberia
Dec 2011

The influx of refugees fleeing violence in Côte d’Ivoire continues to impact the lives and livelihoods of some of Liberia’s most vulnerable populations.

An estimated 64 percent of Liberians live below the absolute poverty line and, among the extremely poor, 73 percent of households are headed by women. Most of the refugees – 50 000 of whom arrived between April and August 2011 alone – came without any belongings and relied entirely on the support of Liberian host communities to meet their basic needs.

The improving socio-political and security situation in Côte d’Ivoire in the second half of 2011 prompted the return of an estimated 131 000 refugees to their homes. However, many remain in Liberia – about 34 000 in local communities and over 35 000 in camps and relocation villages.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

Chronic malnutrition in Liberia remains among the highest in the world at almost 42 percent. The four counties receiving the refugees were already among the most food insecure in Liberia prior to the refugee influx, with worryingly high food insecurity levels (82.5 percent in River Gee, 72.5 percent in Maryland, 32 percent in Nimba and 42 percent in Grand Gedah).

Despite the importance of agriculture to the livelihoods of most Liberians, the sector is constrained by poor road infrastructure, lack of access to quality inputs (seeds and tools), weak market linkages, ongoing ethno-political tension and cross-border population movements, land conflicts and poor farming techniques.

Women play a critical role in agriculture in both Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire – in 2010, 68.8 percent of all economically-active women in Liberia were farmers and 45 percent in Côte d’Ivoire. However, a wide productivity gap exists between male and female farmers, with women lacking equal access to farming inputs, technology and training, which significantly affects their yields. There is a real need to better integrate women in efforts to build food security among host and refugee communities, particularly as 50–60 percent of the Ivoirian refugee families are headed by women.

Households in refugee-hosting areas have borne the full brunt of the refugee influx, forcing them to activate negative coping strategies, such as reducing consumption, borrowing, and consuming seed stocks. This has severely affected their food production capacity and led to an early entry into the “lean period” (one to two months earlier than usual). At the same time, the presence of refugees increased competition over daily labour opportunities and reportedly lowering the daily wage rate.

Liberia is heavily reliant on imports of rice (the staple food) –over 60 percent of the country’s rice needs are met through imports. Continued high international rice prices have been passed on to domestic markets, which, combined with a drop in purchasing power, have directly affected access to food. Food prices rose even further in refugee-hosting areas owing to heightened demand – prices of basic commodities rose by 50–180 percent in these communities compared with 30–70 percent in non-refugee-hosting areas.

FAO response

In 2012, agriculture must receive significantly more attention as the humanitarian community moves from emergency to recovery interventions.

Agricultural assistance ensures higher sustainability of interventions, reduces the risk of adopting harming coping mechanisms, and reduces dependence on external assistance and food aid. With donor support, food security programmes under the 2012 Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) for Liberia will follow a dual approach: (i) emergency/short-term assistance to refugees and hosts to improve their immediate food and livelihood security; and (ii) recovery assistance to host families, with more emphasis on training, extension support, value addition and market linkages.

In 2011, a strong agriculture coordination mechanism helped to prevent overlaps in assistance and reduce gaps. As the response moves from emergency to recovery the number of stakeholders in the agriculture sector continues to rise. FAO will, therefore, seek to reshape coordination mechanisms to meet new requirements, i.e. placing greater emphasis on linking emergency projects to ongoing development assistance to ensure a smooth transition. This will involve continuing to keep the sector and other relevant actors informed about sector needs, priorities, strategies and activities; ensuring a strong link to the food sector; and developing the capacity of humanitarian actors to incorporate gender issues into their programming to empower women in agriculture.

Support will continue to be provided to augment rice production among host communities through the provision of tools, inputs and extension support, including training to improve crop management skills and reduce post-harvest losses. Home gardens will also be strengthened through input and extension support for vegetable, legume and cassava production. Given that most refugees arrived with little or no livelihood assets, efforts will be made to provide them with alternative sources of food and income, such as through support to poultry production. For land-constrained refugees, small livestock husbandry offers an inexpensive and suitable solution to meet their needs.

Under the 2012 CAP, FAO is seeking to strengthen existing poultry rearing initiatives among refugees and plans to provide them with building materials, live animals and feed along with training to help them generate an income, while improving their overall diets.