Statement by Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf President of the Republic of Liberia The Role of Agriculture in Post-Conflict Recovery: The Case of Liberia
Global Agricultural Development Initiative
Mayflower Renaissance Hotel
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Moderator (Dan Glickman, former Secretary
Honorable Thomas Vilsack (Secretary of Agriculture);
Dr. Rajiv Shah (USAID Administrator);
Mr. Marshall Bouton (President Chicago Council on Global Affairs)
Ms. Catherine Bertini (Symposium Co-Chair)
Members of Congress Present;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
I thank you, Mr. Mouton and Mr. Glickman and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, for the kind invitation, and the opportunity to join so many of you in this room and the several other key personalities to speak at this important Symposium on the role of agriculture in the post-conflict recovery of my country, Liberia. You will note that I am wearing green, symbolizing the agriculture potential of my country.
In 2006, Liberia started the long road back from a civil conflict that decimated the country's infrastructure and institutions, a situation compounded by a population that fled to the urban areas, leaving the land unproductive.
In the past four years, under the four pillars of our Poverty Reduction or "Lift Liberia" Strategy, we have restored growth to an average annual 7 percent, tackled a $4.9 billion external debt overhang, made strong progress on consolidating peace and national security, reactivating our mining, agriculture and forestry sectors, promoted the institutions of good governance and the rule of law, and rehabilitating infrastructure to extend basic services to our 3.5 million population.
Yet the challenges remain awesome and our nation fragile in the face of raised expectations and the several stumbling blocks, including the 2008/2009 global financial crisis, that have slowed the pace of recovery and reform.
Poverty continues to be the most significant determinant of food access in many parts of Liberia although 70 percent of the population depends on agriculture. Recognizing that agricultural growth is more effective in reducing poverty than any effort in any other sector, our Government is placing emphasis on this strategic sector both in terms of exports and food security at home.
Our policy goal in the sector is to revitalize operations and activities that contribute to sustainable economic growth and development; to provide food security and nutrition; and to increase farmers' employment and income - all aimed at measurably reducing poverty.
While our commitment to agriculture is unequivocal, I must acknowledge that public financing of the sector is still woefully inadequate. The share of our national budget allocated to agricultural institutions and activities rose from US$3 million in 2006 to US$7 million in 2009 but this still represents a mere 2 percent of our budget.