The Misery Status of the Agricultural Sector in Liberia despite its Economic Significance
It is not fair to the agricultural sector to receive only 1.16% allotment from the national budget because it is the THEME of Liberia’s economy. If it really wants to grow sustainably, then agriculture must be given due credence and priority. The country enjoys a vast uncultivated arable land, and it has almost 50% of the West African rain forest. Nevertheless, it is lagged behind in food security and yielding anticipated economic share from agriculture.”
By Dr. Mory Sumaworo
Executive Director of the African Institute for Development Research (AIDER)
Liberia is blessed with lots of God-gifted natural resources that could play a pivotal role in redirecting its struggling economy to the right trajectory and socioeconomic resuscitation. The agriculture is placed and must be placed atop of those economic and development viable sectors. However, the sector has been neglected and underfunded as its share from the national budget constitutes only 1.16%. Over the years, the country has not been able to be self-reliant in food security even during its so-called heydays in the 60s and 70s.
It is very saddened to see a nation in which 70% of households get their income from agriculture allots and apportions, only 1.16 % of the total annual budget for the sector. That is, the 2019-2020 fiscal year’s allotment for agriculture is US$6208754 of Table (1) shows the allotment for the sector since 2017 and the projected ones until FY2021-2022. Considering the importance of agriculture for many African economies such as Liberia, the Malabo Declaration urges African countries to allot at least 10% of their annual budget for agriculture. Since the AU launched 2014 the “Year of Agriculture and Food Security” marking the 10th anniversary of the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) on January 30, 2014, during its 22nd Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia under the theme “Transforming Africa’s Agriculture for shared prosperity and improved livelihoods: Harnessing Opportunities for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development,” Liberia has not been able to meet its budgetary anticipation for the sector.
However, some other African countries had made tremendous progress in meeting their commitment to the Malabo Declaration. For instance, Burundi’s agriculture sector contributed 34.2% to the national economy (GDP) in 2018, will be allocated 10.1% in the financial year 2019/2020. Again, Rwanda, the country that was number one in Africa as per the AU Biennial Review Report of 2017, agriculture sector contributes 29% to the national economy behind the service sector that contributes 48% and industry 16%. In 2019/2020 Budget Rwanda is expected to allocate 7.8% to agriculture. This is short of 1.2% to the Malabo 10% threshold.
It is vital for the Liberian economy to spend a lot on agriculture in order to increase and stimulate domestic production, meet the country’s agricultural needs, and redirect US$200m that is annually spent on rice importation to local production. By doing this, Liberia’s GDP share from agriculture will steadily increase from its current status, which stands at US$242.8 million as depicted in figure (1).
Besides, it is not fair to the agricultural sector to receive only 1.16% allotment from the national budget, because it is the THEME of Liberia’s economy. If it really wants to grow sustainably, then agriculture must be given due credence and priority. The country enjoys a vast uncultivated arable land, and it has almost 50% of the West African rain forest. Nevertheless, it is lagged behind in food security and yielding anticipated economic share from agriculture. However, it has made some policy advancements to stimulate food security. For example, in 2019, these following laws and policies were made by the Weah-led administration in fulfillment of its promise to improve on the agricultural sector. (1) Act to Amend the Executive Law of Liberia to create a National Food and Feed Quality and Safety (2) the Financing Agreement Tree Crops Extension Project II (TCEP II) between Liberia and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) (3) the Act to Establish the Liberia Fertilizer Regulatory Division, and (4) an Act to Establish Liberia Plant Pesticides Regulatory Services Bureau. (6) Executive Order number 97, spending tariff on all agriculture produce and equipment for a period of one year. Rebecca Kalayi, President of the National Agro-inputs Dealer Association of Liberia (NAIDAL), applauded the Weah-led administration for the duty waiver policy and expressed the optimism that it would yield benefits for the country. She, however, reminded the government to monitor the implementation of the policy strictly. It is true that Liberia’s problems have never always been the shortage of laws and policies, but compliance and implementation of the system.
In conclusion, Liberia is blessed with a vast uncultivated arable land that is very suitable for growing local staple foods and other agricultural products. Therefore, it should be the government’s priority to invest in this viable and critical sector for food security, job creation, and economic stimulation and resuscitation. AGRICULTURE IS NATURALLY THE THEME OF THE LIBERIA’S ECONOMY AND MUST BE TREATED AS SUCH. It is worth noting that a real, sustainable development component starts from self-reliance in food security and the others then follow. President George M. Weah in his second annual message delivered to the 54th Legislature on Monday, January 28, 2019, pointed out that agriculture is critical to the transformation of the country and subsequently promised government’s commitment to putting and investing more money into the sector so that it can play its anticipated socioeconomic role in the country. Unfortunately, the 2019-2020 national budget does speak to this promise as only 1.16% or US$6,208754.00 (six million two hundred eight thousand seven hundred fifty-four) apportioned for agriculture. And this is not the way forward to promoting the sector.
About the Author:
Dr. Mory Sumaworo, Executive Director of the African Institute for Development Research (AIDER).