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FAO encourages more responsible private sector investment

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has encouraged private actors to ensure that they make their investments more responsive, responsible, and sustainable to the people, the planet, and their profits in the agriculture sector.

FAO Representative in Liberia, Mariatou Njie challenged the private sector at the start of a high-level strategy engagement meeting held on 13 April 2023 in Margibi County on boosting responsible investment in agriculture and food systems in Liberia for sustainable development.

The meeting focused on results, lessons learned, and ways forward.

“[While] governments have the primary responsibility to provide such an enabling environment through the development or reform of policies and laws … FAO encourages private actors to ensure that they make their investments more responsive, responsible and sustainable to the people, planet, and their profits,” said Njie.

The FAO official said complementarily, one of the many critical roles governments have in the context of agricultural investment is that of a gatekeeper. 

“Governments can decide which investors are allowed to conduct business in their country and what types of investments are permitted,” Njie added.

Njie continued that governments have the primary responsibility among other things to provide incentives that promote, facilitate, and regulate investments.

Mariatou noted that the government while acting as a gatekeeper on behalf of her citizens, may wish to ask if it wants a particular investor to invest or operate in the country.

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“Do we want this particular investment in our country? Is it aligned with our overall goals for sustainable development?” Njie continued.

To build back better, Njie stated that FAO is committed to contributing to a more equitable, resilient, and performing post-COVID-19 economic growth, enabled by an enhanced investment screening process that will facilitate more responsible investment in the agriculture sector of Liberia. 

“This will make the private sector more viable to lead the much-anticipated growth.”

In Liberia, said the FAO official, “building back better” requires more responsible investments in agriculture and food systems, which are the principal sources of income and employment.

Njie said noteworthy, is the fact that investment that is responsible does not occur in a vacuum. 

“It requires a strong enabling environment that “sets the scene” by providing clear rules, processes, and mandates for good of all the actors.

For his part, German Ambassador Jakob Haselhuber said in Liberia, the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s unwarranted war against Ukraine have led to a further increase in the prevalence of poverty and hunger, estimated at 47.6% poverty and 38.3% hunger respectively. 

“We also learned yesterday that the children 0-5 years still suffer from stunting and wasting and the child mortality is still too high,” said Amb. Haselhuber.

He noted that even if these figures have come down, still 29.8% of children suffer from stunting and 3.4 from wasting. 

“I refer to children 0-5 years of age. That is a crucial age for the development of a child and of a future citizen,” he added.

Hence, the German Ambassador said it is critical to stimulate investments that will effectively contribute to the eradication of poverty and hunger by creating decent jobs and conserving the environment. 

According to him, stimulating such responsible agricultural investment requires strong institutional, legal, regulatory, and incentive frameworks, and requires the collaboration of all actors involved.

In particular, he said he was glad that this support has resulted in practical and actionable policy proposals such as the revision of the investment and investors screening policy which is both critical to maximize opportunities and to minimize risks of investment.

He encouraged the Government of Liberia, FAO, and all other organizations, institutions, and individuals involved to further collaborate towards effective implementation of institutional policy reforms which will boost responsible investment that will benefit people, the planet and prosperity.

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