Liberia: Agricultural livelihoods and food security in the context of COVID-19, Monitoring Report, January 2021

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Key highlights

 Liberia has experienced an economic deceleration during the first half of 2020 due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and the array of public policies designed to contain its spread. This has mainly led to employment and income losses, affecting around one-third of surveyed households, as well as increased food prices as a result of disruptions in the domestic food supply resulting from stringent containment measures.

 One-fifth of farmers have cited an exacerbation of difficulties in accessing agricultural labour, inputs (such as seeds, fertilizers and pesticides) and finance and credit due to insufficient income and in light of higher market prices than usual. In turn, this has led to a reported reduction in the area planted (compared to last year) and in lower agricultural production.

 A reduction in the number of animals owned by households compared to last year (during the same period) has been reported by two-fifths of breeders, mainly due to the sales of animals (as they were no longer able to feed them), higher mortality rates (due to lack of veterinary services) and distress sales for urgent cash needed.

 The surveyed households reported an array of exceptional difficulties in marketing their produce due the restriction and lockdown measures taken by the Government to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, including:

• high costs of transportation (38 percent of households);

• constrained market access (26 percent of households);

• lower demand than usual (13 percent of households); and

• losses in household production, due to the aforementioned difficulties in marketing domestic production, in combination with insufficient storage capacities (41 percent of households).

 Sales volumes and prices have been lower than last year at the same period, as reported, respectively, by two-fifths and by almost one-third of surveyed households.

 The assessment results suggest that the counties most affected by COVID-19, the containment measures and other shocks are Lofa, Grand Kru, Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Bong, Nimba and Gbarpolu, with farming and female-headed households among the most affected. In this context, 29 percent of surveyed households expressed a need for assistance focusing on livelihood support (mainly tools, machinery, seeds, fertilizers and advisory and extension services), as well as cash and in-kind food assistance.

 Among key operational recommendations gathered from the assessment are the importance of prioritizing the support to the production and livelihoods of vulnerable population groups in areas with high food insecurity and poverty levels, in addition to targeting subsistence and small-scale producers, farmers and labourers along rural and urban value chains (especially women) and vulnerable agricultural households, fisherfolk and fishing communities.