Posted by: APO | 31 May 2008

Liberia / World Bank approves US$10 million grant for Liberia’s emergency food crisis response program

World Bank approves US$10 million grant for Liberia’s emergency food crisis response program

Press Release No:2008/339/AFR

Washington, May 29, 2008 – – The Board of Directors of the World Bank today approved a total grant of US$10 million to finance Liberia’s Emergency Food Crisis Response Program. Liberia is among the first batch of countries receiving emergency assistance from the Bank’s Global Food Price Crises Response Trust Fund.

Globally, prices of staple food commodities have increased dramatically, adversely impacting poor people by increasing hunger, malnutrition, and reliance on food aid. For example, wheat prices have increased by 200 percent, while overall food prices have risen by 33 percent. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, of the 36 countries that are in the grip of a severe food security crisis, 21 are in Africa.

The Bank is taking a holistic approach to helping affected countries manage the risks posed by high food prices, including providing policy advice in countries where the social risks are greatest. Recognizing the critical need to boost food production, the Bank is expecting to nearly double its lending for boosting agricultural production in Africa to $700 million (up from $420 million).

In Liberia, the increases in oil and food prices have resulted in an acceleration of inflation during the first quarter of 2008. Food costs 25% more in January 2008 compared to one year before. Since Liberia imports 70% of its food needs, higher food and fuel prices are also likely to have an adverse impact on the country’s external balance

Government Response to the Crisis

Government, in consultation with Development Partners, outlined a number of measures to deal with the situation:

– Removal tariffs on rice imports; and reducing the risk of supply interruptions by negotiating supply contracts with friendly governments;

– Direct assistance to most vulnerable households and targeted feeding programs such as school feeding and supplementary feeding for pregnant and lactating mothers. Government is also working to develop a food- or cash-for-work scheme to provide additional income-generating opportunities during the lean season for under-employed households.

– Distribution of essential planting materials (mainly seeds and fertilizer), improved post-harvest systems (basic processing technology such as rice millers and improved storage facilities) to reduce post-harvest losses. Government is also facilitating access to land for people wanting to farm.

According to Ohene Nyanin, World Bank Country Manager for Liberia, ‘this grant was put together under the leadership of the government and within the broader framework of the joint UN System food security and nutrition response, as a quick intervention to the worsening food situation. I would like to take this opportunity to commend all partners for their spirit of collaboration and the speed with which this package was conceived and prepared. We now have to move quickly into implementation to ensure that needy people do not suffer even more.’

Components of World Bank Assistance

The program approved today provides for two existing World Bank projects to be scaled up specifically to address food price concerns – these are Components 1 and 2 below. It also provides for a new Bank project to support an existing school feeding program implemented by WFP – component 3 below.

Component 1: Agricultural Productivity Intervention (US$3.0 million) to raise production primarily through increasing yields and reduced post-harvest losses. It will include marketing accessibility improvement to facilitate the supply of goods to consumers particularly in the urban areas. This will build on the existing intervention under the Agricultural Infrastructure Development Project which includes similar interventions in food crops and small-holder tree crops for export. It is expected to benefit around 150,000 small farmers. It will also establish a local seed multiplication facilities to produce around 1,000metric tons of certified seed to farmers.

Component 2: Cash for Work Employment Program (US$3.0 million). The Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE) which receives Bank support under the Community Empowerment Project (CEP) will implement the activities under this component, in particular the creation of 800,000 person day temporary jobs through a labor intensive public works program. Works will include sanitation, drainage clearance and small road maintenance, and will target both urban and rural areas. It is expected that over 75% of this component’s costs will pay labor wages.

Component 3: Food Support for Vulnerable Women and Children (US$4.0 million). The activities to be financed under this component will include: (i) a school feeding program, (ii) take home rations for girls in grade 4 to 6, as an additional incentive to encourage greater attendance by girls, and (iii) a program for vulnerable women – mainly pregnant and lactating women. The program will cover approximately 69,600 beneficiaries and will be implemented through the World Food Program (WFP). Five of the nine most vulnerable counties will be covered.

Ishac Diwan, Country Director for Liberia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso and Guinea notes, ‘many countries in the sub-region are feeling the pinch of the global oil and food price increases, with the potential threat of reversing gains made over past decade through tough and painful economic measures. I believe, though, that the sub-region has enough capacity, both human and natural, to produce more agricultural goods to feed its populations. We are now looking very closely at how to transform agriculture in ways to substantially scale up productivity and production.’

In a nationwide address on the subject in April, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stressed the need for Liberians to go back to the soil and grow the food they eat, including cassava, eddoes, corn, rice and assorted vegetable. ‘The only solution to this crisis is that we must grow our own food,’ she said.


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