HARBEL — The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations with support from the German Federal Ministry of Agriculture last week ended a four-day Phase Two of a Blended Learning Programme on Responsible Agriculture Investment (RAI) at the Farmington Hotel, Robert International Airfield in Liberia. The blended learning session which was held on the theme: ‘’Creating an enabling environment for responsible investment in agriculture and food systems’’, brought together about forty participants drawn from government Ministries of Agriculture, Commerce and Justice, Departments of Forestry and Agriculture Investment Agencies from both Liberia and Sierra Leone. Facilitators came from FAO Headquarters in Rome and Johannesburg, South Africa.
During the opening session, one of the leading facilitators who doubles as the Capacity Development Officer at FAO, Chiara Nicodemi said the second phase of the blended learning programme on Responsible Agriculture Investment (RAI) followed the first phase of online learning. In her overview of the four-day learning session, she said the program aims to enhance the capacities of government authorities in facilitating and promoting responsible agriculture investments in sustainable way by building on skills acquired during the first phase to strengthen & consolidate skills to enable participants from Liberia and Sierra Leone in refining roadmaps & ensuring they are fully equipped to translate knowledge acquired into concrete action.
The key objective of the blended learning programme, was geared towards deepening knowledge on the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems, assess the countries’ processes and activities related to RAI, identify challenges, solutions and priorities, building networks, committing to behavioural changes and developing action plans for achieving more responsible investments in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Key among the learning sessions during the four days Blended Learning Programme were presentation of updates on Phase One action plans, inclusive policymaking for change, stakeholders mapping, group presentation of country discussion on the application of RAI, establishment of a multi-stakeholders platform, environmental protection issues in relation to agriculture, presentation of Liberia’s case on data management system.
Presenting action plan on behalf of the Liberian team, Meo D. Beyan, the Assistant Minister Commercial Transactions, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Justice says the overall objective of the country’s draft plan of action focuses on: Establishment of a functional and sustainable Multi-Sectorial Platform on Responsible Agriculture Investment, Empowering youths to engage in RAI and Mainstream RAI principles in designing, implementing and monitoring of Agricultural investments. In the plan, the team enlisted activities ranging from review of existing policies to develop RAI checklist for Agriculture projects at design stage among others.
On behalf of the Sierra Leone team, Engineer Gorge Rogerson of the Ministry of Country Planning and the Environment presented the country’s action plan on RAI. The objectives focus on: Establishing and operationalize a central environmental data management system and Enhancing active youth participation in Agric entrepreneurship with activities including: conduct a nationwide consultations on youth investment in Agric, national mapping of youth in agriculture programs and proffer solutions, establish four incubator centers, proposal development, organize youths into cooperatives.
Marking the closure of the session were Ministers of Agriculture, Internal Affairs and Justice. In his remarks, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Varney Sirleaf called on all the participants to support application of the principles of responsible agriculture investment to improve the sector, which the country’s main source of economic development. He urged line ministries, departments and agencies including development partners in the sector to work together with the Internal Affairs Ministry in making sure that Liberia succeeds in its food security drive.
Speaking at the closing session of the workshop, the FAO Country Representative, Madam Mariatou Njie, reechoed that responsible agriculture investment is an all-stakeholders’ affairs that requires all hands-on deck. Meaning the government, intergovernmental and regional organizations, financing institutions, universities and extension organizations, small holder farmers and their organizations, business enterprises, civil society organizations, workers and their unions, communities and consumer groups are all needed to play active roles to achieve RAI. ‘’I am therefore encouraged by number and multiplicity of stakeholders’ representation from various background in this learning session. More so the high level of your participation, commitment and quality of the action plans presented today’’, said the FAOR. She added the presentations inspire us collectively giving there are pathways to ensuring that investment in agriculture sector can occur in a conducive investment environment; wherein people will not infringe on the land, water, and food rights of individuals and rather contribute than deduct from the efforts towards a world free from hunger and malnutrition.
‘The Agriculture and Natural Resources sector is a major player in the economy and key contributor towards meeting the country’s priority objectives and the first two Sustainable Development Goals – the eradication of hunger and poverty by 2030. The action plans therefore provided the necessary guidance on the areas in which actions should be concentrated in the sector in order to maximize outputs from investment by both the public and private sectors to ensure that the course of action being catered for policy are appropriate in terms of the country’s interest and capacities’’, said Madam Njie.
In conclusion, she reiterated FAO’s commitment to support Liberia and Sierra Leone more broadly, in identifying ways to implement these plans as she looks forward to receiving them with much interest.
In his official closing remarks of the four-day workshop, the Acting Minister of Agriculture – (for Planning and Development), Robert Fargans, applauded the Food and Agriculture Organize office in Liberia and its Headquarters in Rome for the organization’s continued technical support to the sector in Liberia. The Deputy Minister for Planning and Development urged all sector actors in creating the enabling environment to promoting Responsible Agriculture Investment and food systems in both Liberia and Sierra Leone.