Liberia: Sustainable Palm Oil

Recovering from a 14-year civil war and an Ebola outbreak in 2014 and 2015 which devastated the entire nation, Liberia has set its sights on palm oil as a means to rebuild its economy. Reported to provide thousands of jobs for a country with over 1 million people living in extreme poverty, palm oil looks to offer the Liberian economy a welcome break.

However, there is a catch.

Without effective management of the ever-expanding global palm oil industry, Liberia risks destroying its vast, age-old primary forests which are relied upon by the larger ecosystem and their local communities. With more and more land being converted to oil palm plantations, and consequently the gradual infringement on the traditional way of life, the industry has been a matter of tension among the townspeople whose sacred ancestral land is being invested into palm oil mills.

The country has therefore been confronted with a compromise; should it move away from a potential key to national economic development, or should it put the local customs and livelihoods at risk?

In order to transition from the above compromise to instead strive for a win-win solution, the UNDP Green Commodities Programme has been partnering with the Liberian government and Conservation International (CI) via the Good Growth Partnership (see more under Global Initiatives) to establish the National Oil Palm Platform of Liberia (NOPPOL). An evolution of the previous Oil Palm Technical Working Group (OPTWG), this new platform was implemented in 2019 to convene a wide array of stakeholders in the discussion on sustainably developing Liberia’s involvement with the agricultural crop. In order to foster a representative discourse, NOPPOL incorporated input from the North Western Oil Palm Landscape Forum (NWOPLF), taking into account the voices of county members of Bomi, Bong, and Grand Cape Mount.

Co-chaired by the Liberian Ministry of Agriculture and the Forest Development Authority, changemakers from the public, private and civil society sectors are working through challenges and agreeing on the key barriers from achieving sustainable production of palm oil in Liberia.

With the establishment of the NOPPOL and following GCP’s signature process (see Our Focus), it is agreed that the participants begin working on the development of a national strategy on sustainable oil palm. With the national strategy in order, a National Action Plan on Sustainable Palm Oil in Liberia will soon follow suit.

In-Country Team

Dorsla Farcarthy, ARR/Team Leader, Inclusive Growth & Sustainable Development

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