General Liberia conducted a population census in June 2008 indicating its population still remains lower compared to neighboring countries on the West African coast. The average annual growth rate has fallen from 3.4% to 2.1; the population grew from 2.102 million in 1984 to only 3.49 million in 2008. Population density has however increased from 66% to 93 persons/sq. mile from a previous 56 persons/sq mile in 1984 according to preliminary census results (MPEA 2008). About 40% of this population is living in urban areas with as much as 33% in Monrovia alone and over 6.6% divided into the remaining county capitals. Nearly 60% rural dwellers make their living from agriculture. These rural dwellers are the project’s ultimately targets.
The project is likely to have some socio-economic impact on the communities and the farmers in the seven (7) counties (Montserrado, Margibi, Grand Gedeh, Nimba, Bong, Maryland/River Gee and Grand Bassa). The expected social benefits relates as much to the goal of reducing poverty among rural poor. Social issues likely to be impacted on by the project include: Land tenure and ownership rights, labor, social infrastructure, social capital, cultural believes and rights, gender, youth and vulnerability and community expectations. The development of social capital through capacity building and infrastructural developments are likely to take place during and after the implementation of the project activities. The ability of the project to deliver on its poverty reduction objective is likely to increase income levels of rural farmers and support some infrastructural development in participating communities. Financially, the main social benefits of the project will be derived from increased incomes from tree cropping and stimulation of local and international marketing.
Given the socio-economic situation in Liberia in general, there are expected overall positive social impacts in the short, medium and long term as a result of the project. But there is also a potential for adverse impacts. These are outlined in the following paragraphs.
Improve access to land and tenure security as cash crop farmers and communities register their lands and farms with the revision of land policy;
Creation of opportunities for sustainable income-generation in agriculture through diversification and improvement in tree crop production for rural communities;
The project is likely to impact positively in ensuring that farmers capacities are enhanced in the production of quality cash crop products;
Increase in capacity opportunities including training and skills development will enhance local communities and farmers in tree crop production for improved rehabilitation and expansion of the sector
Provision of opportunity in small-scale infrastructure in a planned and organized fashion that would facilitate more efficient uses of economic resources in project counties and communities;
Empowerment of local communities to mobilize and build capacities in sustainable community development through effective delivery of extension services, improved technologies in cash crop farming and agricultural inputs;
Inclusion of women, the youth and migrants to participate in the cash crop sector through the creation of sustainable agricultural sector employment opportunities;
Provision of basic infrastructure including access roads in tree crop production areas which would further improve and facilitate distribution of food crops to market centers; and
Provision of sustainable productivity through input supply and improved access to needed cash crop seeds and technologies.
Improved management and governance of FOs, increased trust and sustainability.
Increased competition over lands to invest in cash crops within the current dualistic land ownership system in Liberia could create local conflicts over land;
Women’s (and the youth’s) access to land and land ownership may limit their direct involvement in the project. Though this may differ from one project area to the other;
The project could have negative social impacts if the participatory processes to sensitize communities on the project objectives are not consistently followed.
Food insecurity may occur if project implementation does not fully comply to current food security strategies and link up with ongoing projects to increase food security;
Competitive labor demand for cash crops cultivation may affect the contribution of household labor for crop farming;
Farmer associations may face elite capture, the vulnerable, powerless and/or marginalized groups especially women and the youth are hindered from actively participating and benefiting from the project;
Social tension and agitation due to lack of inadequate flow of accurate project information in a timely manner and dialogue among different stakeholders of the project.
Given these potential negative impacts, the project must be prepared to ensure that any necessary mitigation measures are fully implemented using the management frameworks developed for this purpose. There may also need to be strong grievance redress system to receive and address complaints at the different governmental levels.
Land Tenure and Ownership Rights
In Liberia land tenure is a complex issue which is still undergoing critical review by the Liberian government. The current legislation covering land tenure remains to be clarified and the Government has established the Land Reform Commission the outcomes of their work still being awaited. The most significant of the Land Tenure System is the Community Rights law under which the status of Customary Land Tenure is to be clarified, The current complexity of the system and the significant legal confusion over customary rights is linked to various contradictory laws and this has been captured in a proposed strategy report to Land Commission, 10 The 1986 Liberian Constitution includes a number of provisions related to real property rights including land. Article 22 provides that “Every person shall have the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.” It limits that right to Liberian citizens, but makes an exception for non-citizen missionary, educational and other benevolent institutions. Access to land as a Liberian citizen is therefore granted under the constitution. Land is vested in the President and all communities through their leaders have access to lands which are allocated to family heads. For the smallholder sector there are five broad types of land holding, with different levels of tenure security: (i) Deed holders (or holders of other documents) with a comparatively high degree of tenure security; (ii) Customary occupation without a deed resulting in relative security within the customary domain; (iii) Rental or leasing of land with lower security; (iv) “Strangers” or ”Borrowers” of land who are not from a local area who do not rent, but are allowed very temporary and insecure access to land, and must supply a token amount of crop produce to the owner to acknowledge that the land is owned by another—in essence acknowledging that the land is being loaned; and (v) Squatters, who although they can be evicted at any time they are discovered by the owner, are also the most aggressive about attempting claim through tree crop planting and forms of adverse possession.
The legalization of customary land tenure within such a dualistic land-ownership system has been identified as a serious insecurity of tenure.11 For many farmers with customary usufruct over land (mostly subsistence farmers) there is less security over land than those holding under statutory tenure. A proposal to harmonize customary and statutory rights over land would require legal protection by national law which has not yet been formulated and adopted. Access to land and its resources and security of tenure are essential for the success of the STCRSP and overall poverty reduction. Smallholder farmers, who make up the majority of the project target, require access and security of tenure to move beyond subsistence farming into more profitable and sustainable food crops and tree crops cultivation. This will improve farmer’s livelihoods, support food security and increased export crop production.
The lack of land policy has implications on the STCRSP. The project is likely to be affected by traditional land tenure and ownership system.
The project will require the government to expedite action on clarifying its policy on land rights and ownership. This process has already commenced with the establishment of the Liberian Lands Commission. Individuals in communities must have security over their lands if they are to invest in tree crops. The rehabilitation of tree crops under the various project components may undoubtedly place some requirements on current land tenure and ownership situation. Proof of usufruct rights over existing farms need to be established before investing into the project. In discussions with community leaders including commissioners and clan heads, it was established that this will not be difficult since community members “know” existing members who have rights over specific plots of lands within their communities. The project will however call into question the tenure and usufruct rights over land by community members where new plantings and replanting are to be done. The studies on land tenure and access being undertaken by the proposed project will provide further guidance on this.
Assessment of Potential Impacts Positive Impact: Rehabilitation and new development of tree crop farms is likely to support proper land use by farmers. The project will encourage farmers to diversify the use of agricultural lands and this will lead to efficient land usage for both food crop and cash crop production; rehabilitation of old plantations will immediately improve and increase household income levels; and long term provision of opportunities for farmers to obtain security over lands through the provision of legal titles and deeds over lands owned. Again, due to the verification of ownership of land as a condition for participation, it is likely that there will be improved sanity in ownership and tenure. The studies on land in addition to other programs will contribute towards an improved land tenure and administration system. The improved system can also be o the advantage of otherwise vulnerable groups like women, youth and migrants.
Adverse Impacts: The lack of a registry of land in Liberia means that no systematic records keeping system currently exists on lands. The proof of land ownership for those to be supported under the project may therefore not be sufficiently validated. Women, youth, migrants and the “landless” may not be able to benefit directly from the project as their usufruct and customary right over land may be limited to the production of food crops. Customary landowners may invest large acreages of land into tree crops and prevent others from benefiting from project by leasing out available lands. Proof of ownership of old plantations (cocoa, coffee and rubber) and of land may bring some conflicts by multiple claimants where titles and deeds covering them are not available.
Establish linkages with ongoing land administration review under the Lands Commission of Liberia, and ensure that lands invested in the project are free of conflicts;
Support access to land for women, youth and migrants land ownership may limit their direct involvement in the project. Though this may differ from one project area to the other The project could have negative social impacts if the participatory processes to sensitize communities on the project objectives are not consistently followed.
Farmer Organizational Development/Producer Associations
The project has the potential to impact positively on social capital development as well as offer some opportunities for the development of social amenities including roads and farm tracts. The formation, revitalization and capacity building of FOs in tree crop production in particular, and agriculture in general is important in strengthening individual and group support for sustainable development of the sector. Farmers currently operate individually and do not have the opportunity to learn from each other and to be able to negotiate with central government and other stakeholders on issues relating to improving their practices with a strong voice. Previous farmer cooperatives and district level community groups which were scattered all over the country collapsed during the war and efforts to restore these groups according to community leaders have been grim. Although there exists some remnants of these cooperatives some dating as far back as 1971 (e.g. Kpodo Farmers Cooperative in the Nimba Country) their capacities are weak with minimal engagement in self-help activities.
Promotion of producer groups and associations as part of the project should have a positive socio-economic impact as these generally have a louder voice and bargaining position which ultimately benefits the entire community.
Positive Impact: Overall, the project will support proper organization, reorganization and capacity building of farmers and farmers/producer associations and empower them through training to enable them to attain a common voice and form cooperatives which can better negotiate on issues relating to the management of their farms, produce and their needs. The capacity building will also ensure improved governance and management of the FOs and improved knowledge base for the leaders and members. The project is likely to support the restoration of social capital by mobilizing and developing targeted human skills in tree crop development. Unlike neighboring Ivory Coast and Ghana knowledge and skill in Cocoa and Oil Palm cultivation is weak. The project is likely to impact positively in ensuring that farmer’s capacities are enhanced in the production of quality cash crop products. The STCRSP may impact on social cohesion and encourage inclusion using appropriate participatory approaches and extension support. This can mitigate the risk of conflict and promote equitable access to development benefits by enhancing inclusive participation and capacity enhancement for farmers.
Negative Impact: There is the potential for elite capture of the project which may create the marginalization of vulnerable groups most likely to be women and the youth. This can occur within community level farmers associations where participatory strategies are not implemented. The past experience may also be a hindrance as members’ trust.
Establish clear constitutions and mode of operation for Farmer associations to prevent elite capture and ensure active participation among the vulnerable, powerless and/or marginalized groups especially women and the youth;
Design and establish gender and youth strategies under the project.
A key policy direction of the Liberian Government is to improve the agricultural sector towards reducing poverty and ensure food security. The central goal for the agricultural sector is to revitalize the sector in order to contribute to inclusive and sustainable economic development and growth, and to provide food security and nutrition, employment and income, and measurable poverty reduction. Food insecurity in Liberia is high and is evident in the poor nutritional status of the population. The Comprehensive Food Security and Nutrition Survey (CFSNS) carried out in March 2006 found that 11 percent of households in rural/semi-urban Liberia are food insecure, while the figure reaches as high as 28 percent in the areas most affected by the war and displacements. Additionally, 40 percent of the population was found to be either highly or moderately vulnerable to food insecurity. Since then there has been consistent effort by the government to support programs and projects aimed at food security. Hence a major concern to the project should be its impact on food security. Increasing domestic food supply will reduce the country’s dependence on food imports and provide incomes for farm households.12 Enhancement of transport infrastructure as part of the STCRSP could accelerate the development of other productive sectors, ensuring food security. This was one of the key impacts that community members identified during discussions. Current poor road network limits opportunities for an effective market system for crop producers. Expanded economic opportunities for rural farmers through cash crop production will have positive effects on family welfare, food security, and poverty reduction.
Positive Impact: A robust agriculture sector will enhance food security, both by directly increasing food production through intercropping under tree crops and also by improved incomes of farmers through diversification into cash crops. Food security will be improved through collaboration with the Agriculture sector to increase food production and diversification. Production in traditional food crops such as rice and cassava has already begun to rebound as farmers are expanding their farmlands and adopting improved agricultural practices under agricultural interventions like the ASRP. The rehabilitation and expansion of rubber, palm oil, coffee, cocoa, and oil palm farms have major potential to improve farmer’s income which can be reinvested into food crops. The project must collaborate with sector ministries and agencies undertaking some rehabilitating and expanding Liberia’s road network within the tree crop production corridors. This will help to connect farmers to markets, raising output, reducing prices for food and critical inputs, and stimulating supporting activities throughout the rural areas. Intercropping of tree crop plantations with food crops (e.g. pepper, peanuts, and plantains) can support in the short term increase in food production and household incomes.
Negative Impact: The rush by communities to participate in the project at the expense of food crops is real. Given the fact that participation guarantees some financial and logistical support, farmers may become more interested in planting any of the selected project crops at the expense of food crop
This can be abated through the system of intercropping, proper information dissemination on the project scope, requirements and objective which hopefully will limit the number of possible farmers who would qualify to participate. The project will also be presented as just an aspect of Government of Liberia’s plan for enhanced agriculture and other plans and programs for the food sector may be considered by food crop farmers.
Levels of Expectation from Communities
Poor rural communities do have high expectations whenever new projects emerge. These expectations include such benefits like roads, clinics, school construction, employment of locals and the provision of training to members of the local communities.
Pre-consensus and consensus with communities regarding the project objectives has not yet been undertaken. There are clear indications of high enthusiasm among these stakeholders at county, district, clan and town levels. Farmers expressed their interest in embracing any such project to be initiated by the government and implemented through the MOA and some Concessions. They are optimistic that the partnership can be built with farmers benefiting most. The possibility of the project being able to support infrastructural development especially roads and schools is clearly expressed by them. These expectations need to be properly managed right from the formulation stage when project goals should be clearly spelt out to farmers and community leaders.
Positive Impact: The high level of expectations could help with effective project implementation as there will be enthusiasm and commitment from members of beneficiary communities. This could help the project achieve its development objectives and activities.
Negative Impact: High levels of expectations from communities, increased demand for more support from the project beyond the capacity of the project is therefore likely. The project’s inability to meet these expectations could be a challenge that can hamper progress during implementation.
The project can mitigate against the above by ensuring consistent dialogue with communities on project goal, objectives and activities at all levels (county, district, clan and community) will ensure a better understanding of the project and enhance involvement of communities and farmers
Labor and Employment
The rural agricultural sector has not as yet been able to attract unemployed youth and young women. This assertion was corroborated in all counties consulted during the mission especially in Bong and River Gee. The current system of local mobilization of labor is the “Kuus’ in rural communities. These are identified as a more sustainable source of labor than that of household labor in the rehabilitation and development of tree crops. Already in use in most rural communities “kuus” form or system of self help in land clearing, planting and harvesting made up of a number of farmers who come together to form groups.
Currently most smallholders (according to feedback from community level discussions) depend to a large extent on family labor for smallholder agriculture and this involves all members of the family. Permanent employees and/or temporary/contract workers (seasonal) may also be involved. Division of labor on farms according to discussions held with farmers is pretty much along gender roles and responsibilities i.e. gender division of labor. Influx of labor from neighboring counties or countries as farm hands was assessed to be likely but minimal.
Positive Impacts: The project is likely to impact positively on family, migrant and indigenous labor. Another positive impact is the potential to address rural youth unemployment through the diversification of the rural economy. Rural-urban movement among the youth may be reduced but this is dependent on the integration of youth empowerment strategies. Improving skills and building capacity of existing labor force through the transfer of improved agricultural practices in tree crops will also be achieved. Raising the level of efficiency in the tree crop value chain for instance processing of oil palm from artisanal extraction methods involving households, to more efficient small to industrial-scale will support increase in labor opportunities for women and the youth.
Negative Impacts: Reinforcement of any negative division of labor (gender / child division of labor) may limit the direct gains to be made by marginalized groups. Unless proper consideration is given to gender and child labor issues adverse impacts may occur as extra demands are made on child labor. This was not considered to be a strong adverse effect and community members and stakeholders were very clear on their objection to particularly child labor issues. There would be a gradual increase in employment for rural youth with consequent possible increase in their interest in agriculture especially tree crop cultivation. Whereas the involvement of migrants and their needs are often trampled upon or neglected in wage negotiations, the impact of the project on migrant labor does not appear to be high.
Support for established international, regional and national strategies against child labor in agriculture for instance cocoa and rubber must be adhered to. Also support for existing labor support and self-help mechanisms (known as “kuus”) at community levels, must be embraced, supported and structured under the STCRSP.
Farmers and Implementing Agency Relationship
Relationship between farmers and implementing agencies like NGOs and Concessions seems good where they exist. Communities surrounding for instance rubber plantations in Margibi County expressed mutual respect and benefit from one another. Potential Out-grower communities in Maryland/River Gee were full of commendation for growing support from the Cavala Rubber Plantations. In Bong Country a group of farmers participating in Farmer Field Schools (FFS) under the ACDI/VOCA and IITA Cocoa Project were obviously elated about the level of improvement of their knowledge and skill in improved cultural practices as a result of the project. These relationships can be further improved if they continue to work together to support each other mutually. Whereas communities consider NGOs to support the cause of the poor some have the opinion of Concessions being more profit-oriented and more interested in their business.
Positive Impact: Impact may be positive as the project supports and strengthens collaboration and linkages between farmers, NGOs and Concessions to ensure that maximum benefits from the project accrue to communities and farmers.
Negative Impact: The potential for this relationship to turn sour exist especially where there is suspicion on the part of any of the parties.
The strong involvement of the County and District Development mechanisms should be employed to address any likely misunderstanding between stakeholders. Development committees at county, district and clan level must ensure and organize continuous dialogue and interactions between communities, Concessions and NGOs as a forum for discussions.
The concern most frequently cited across nearly all counties was the shortage and poor state of roads. People also noted the shortage of safe drinking water and electricity. In the education sector, they expressed concern over the shortage and inadequacy of educational facilities, the shortage of trained teachers, and the under-representation of girls in schools. Likewise, in the health sector, concerns were raised about the shortage of trained medical personnel, the lack of health care facilities and ambulances.
Positive Impact: The likely impact in terms of support and provision of some infrastructure can be considered as highly positive and these may include especially improved road network and farm access. The project is likely to impact positively on improving particularly road accessibility to communities, and to support some improvement in community-market feeder roads and farm tracks particularly those through abandoned areas and farms which will be considered under the project. The project therefore has the potential of improving social infrastructure at the community level through rehabilitation of selected feeder roads. If labor –based methods are employed, it could create additional employment for local youth.
Negative Impact: The rehabilitation exercise may affect communities along the selected feeder roads who may temporarily lose their access, some farms crops along the feeder roads and may also experience inconveniences during the rehabilitation period.
The exercise will be done in collaboration with the community leaders and members. Any loss of livelihood or income or restriction of access will be addressed using the project’s resettlement policy framework.
Liberia faces major gender disparities in terms of women’s access to productive assets. Many women are unable to fully benefit and enjoy access to economic opportunities. The tree crop sector in Liberia is dominated by men. This was confirmed by communities corroborated the differentiated roles between men and women.
Women are major players in the agricultural sector, constitute the majority of smallholder producers and agricultural labor force. Despite women and girls’ important economic role, they have limited access to the inputs and services essential to carrying out their productive functions, and are absent from important economic sectors. Women have less access than men to productive inputs and services, including land, skills training, basic tools, and technology.
Women hardly own land in Liberia and their access to land is through men, who may be their husbands, fathers or a relative. This current land tenure system has contributed to a lack of land security for women and frequent conflicts over property rights within families. The outlined impacts below were confirmed by stakeholders.
Positive Impact: Overall impact may be positive as women’s inclusion in tree crops production improves with increase in household incomes. The project has a strong focus on gender considerations. The social impact assessment conducted for the project and the study on land will all positively contribute to women’s participation in the project vis a vis their men counterparts. Again, the project will be informed by GoL’s commitment to gender equality matters in the agriculture and general economy. Impact may also be positive in relation to increased opportunities for value chain additions like small-scale processing which is a preserve of women
Negative Impact: The constraints women in agricultural production face, especially in relation to tree crop production, affect household food and nutrition security. Lack of access to land for productive agriculture activities may be a hindrance to women’s participation as most of the owners of existing tree crops are likely to be men due to the land ownership system. Under current customary and usufruct access to land, equitable access to and security of tenure in land" for women, youth, and other disadvantaged groups may hinder their direct or indirect involvement in tree crop cultivation. Access to land and ownership rights may however increase the chance of men directly participating than women, whose direct involvement may be limited due to lack of access and ownership rights over land.
The project will specifically expand women’s and girls’ economic opportunities through their involvement in the STCRSP. A mapping of the number of women, youth and the disadvantaged group who actually possess and could participate directly in the project may be useful.