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The role of UPA in rebuilding Liberia

In Greater Monrovia, over 5,000 households are engaged in UPA (© Thomas Veser)
In Greater Monrovia, over 5,000 households are engaged in UPA
© Thomas Veser

Since the end of the war that raged from 1989 to 2003, Liberia has suffered from chronic food insecurity, with much of its agricultural sector destroyed. Once one of the booming economies of West Africa, Liberia is now one of the least developed countries in the world: over 40 per cent of Liberians are estimated to be food insecure. As the economy slowly recovers, the urban population is growing quickly. But in the capital, Monrovia, a generation without education is struggling to survive and prosper amidst the wreckage of devastated infrastructure.

Sustainable cities

In Greater Monrovia, over 5,000 households are engaged in urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA), mostly for domestic consumption. Urban farmers (75 per cent of whom are women) generally produce vegetables and fruits, with staple crops such as rice and cassava produced on larger open spaces and swamps in peri-urban areas. But there are no clearly defined areas for urban agriculture and land rights are uncertain. Restaurants, hotels, mining companies, supermarkets and hospitals are increasingly sourcing urban agricultural produce, but improved storage facilities and post-harvest technologies are needed. Farmers also lack reliable access to proper tools, good seeds and formal credit systems.

75% of urban farmers in Liberia are women (© Welthungerhilfe)
75% of urban farmers in Liberia are women
© Welthungerhilfe

Urban agriculture provides a strategy to help reduce urban poverty, improve food security and enhance waste management. But UPA also plays a wider role in developing sustainable cities, through greening, climate change adaptation and employment creation. Since 2010, Welthungerhilfe and RUAF, with EU funding, have collaborated with Monrovia Municipality and other stakeholders to promote UPA. Through a multi-stakeholder forum (MSF), a number of critical issues have been identified and agreed upon in a strategic agenda on UPA. And recently, the government acknowledged the importance of urban agriculture in enhancing food security in the country.

Policy formation

To develop and strengthen linkages and to support policy change, RUAF facilitated a multi-stakeholder policy formation and action planning (MPAP) approach. "Urban agriculture touches on a large number of urban management areas and involves a large diversity of systems and actors," explains MSF officer Franklin King. "Only by coordinating policy and planning on urban agriculture between these different actors and sectors can these endeavours be successful." The aim was to get UPA recognised as an important strategy for food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable urban development, and integrate UPA into policy frameworks, both in Monrovia and nationally.

Urban farmers are receiving support to improve production, processing and marketing (© CARE Liberia)
Urban farmers are receiving support to improve production, processing and marketing
© CARE Liberia

At a political level, RUAF looked for the easiest entry point: the local government was interested in UPA because it fitted with its policy of urban greening, recycling of urban waste, storm water management and adaptation to climate change. It also recognised the potential of UPA for economic small-scale enterprises and value chain development, enhancement of food security and inclusion of disadvantaged groups. The MSF has the mandate to develop a 'city strategic action plan' (CSA), and this has now been drawn up, based on the results of an exploratory survey, developing a vision for the future of UPA, and identifying key issues, main actors, resources and sources of finance to achieve it.

The resulting CSA for Greater Monrovia was accepted by the MSF members in 2012. Meanwhile the Ministry of Agriculture had established a national coordinator for urban and peri-urban agriculture. "Urban Agriculture is a national necessity: we must embrace it; we must support it; and together we must sustain it," says Hon. Mary Broh, Acting Mayor of Monrovia City. The College of Agriculture at the University of Liberia is also working on the development of a core-course on UPA to be included in its curriculum. Responsibility for the MSF has now been handed over to Monrovia Municipality and the Ministry of Agriculture, but RUAF and Welthungerhilfe will continue to support these platforms through further institutional development and capacity building.

Plan into action

A major facility is under construction in Greater Monrovia to support solid waste management (© Jens Grossmann)
A major facility is under construction in Greater Monrovia to support solid waste management
© Jens Grossmann

A number of activities have now been undertaken under the CSA. Welthungerhilfe initiated the Federation of Liberian Urban and Peri-urban Farmers Association (FLUPFA) in 2011 to represent urban farmers. In addition to joint buying and selling services, the Association assists farmers to advocate or negotiate with other stakeholders in the city. At the same time, CARE Liberia has initiated Village Savings and Loans (VS&L) schemes, in response to the financial sector's inability to offer banking services to poor and low-income communities, such as urban farmers. Welthungerhilfe, CARE and the USAID sponsored Food and Enterprise Development Program are also supporting urban farmers to add value to their produce, through improved production, processing and marketing, and by connecting them with traders, hotels, restaurants and supermarkets.

The importance of UPA has been recognised by the urban authorities and the government: the Municipalities of Tubmanburg and Monrovia, supported by Welthungerhilfe and RUAF are looking into new legislation and land use mapping, while the Ministry of Lands and the Lands Commission are investigating access issues. To improve year round supply of clean irrigation water, small hand and foot pumps are being disseminated. The issue of food safety is being addressed by Welthungerhilfe and RUAF through the development of a health and food safety system with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture, and USAID is collaborating with Monrovia Municipality and others for better management and productive use of organic waste.

Moving forward

Welthungerhilfe support farmers with improved nurseries (© René van Veenhuizen)
Welthungerhilfe support farmers with improved nurseries
© René van Veenhuizen

According to RUAF and Welthungerhilfe, while NGOs have started to support urban farmers with savings and loan programmes, access to credit and finance needs further attention and improved production and post-harvest practices are still required. "There is great potential for the development of these value chains to enhance the return on farmers' products and develop sustainable businesses, but this needs organisation and capacity building," King says. "Women play a critical role in the production and processing sectors and are often dynamic entrepreneurs. Therefore improving women's involvement in and access to credit, farming inputs, extension services and business opportunities must be prioritised."

Written by: René van Veenhuizen (RUAF) and André Stelder (Welthungerhilfe)

Date published: May 2013

 

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Thanks to the EU, RUAF, Welthungerhilfe, Care-Liberia, the G... (posted by: Halala)

 

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