In a move to address the gender gap in agriculture, the Rural Integrated Center for Community Empowerment (RICCE) is calling for a comprehensive integration of gender perspectives into Liberia’s Oil Palm Development Fund Bill. The landmark bill, currently under multi-stakeholder review, aims to fortify and modernize the Liberian oil palm sector, one of the key economic drivers in the country.
During a high-profile quarterly meeting with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), governmental bodies, and international development partners, Renee N. Gibson, Program Manager of RICCE, underscored the vulnerabilities faced by female farmers in the oil palm industry—both globally and within Liberia.
“Initial field reports reveal that women are particularly concerned about access to training, loans, and livelihood activities. We must close the gender gap by ensuring that women are adequately represented and empowered in all facets of this groundbreaking legislation,” Gibson stated.
The Oil Palm Development Fund Bill is designed to serve multiple objectives, including capacity-building for smallholder farmers, provisioning advanced farming equipment, and facilitating the manufacturing of palm-based products.
Notably, the bill proposes to fund these initiatives not through the County Development Fund but through contributions from oil palm concessionaires. This aims to bring tangible benefits to communities directly impacted by oil palm cultivation.
The Civil Society Oil Palm Working Group (CSO-OPWG), supported by the Green Livelihoods Alliance’s Forest for a Just Future program, has already spearheaded consultations in six of Liberia’s 15 counties with oil palm concessions.
RICCE, designated as the Gender Technical Partner by the Global Forest Coalition, plays a critical role in ensuring that these community consultations are both gender-inclusive and gender-responsive.
Gibson emphasized that the bill must specify the gender composition in its governance structures. “Sections eight and nine, outlining fund membership, institutional framework, and administration, do not specify the male-to-female ratio.
This is a significant oversight. A gender-balanced representation in decision-making roles should be stipulated before the bill is forwarded to the National Legislature,” she added.
Following a series of county-level engagements, members of the CSO-OPWG convened on September 8, 2023, to collate community input. The push for gender mainstreaming in the Oil Palm Development Fund Bill is not just a question of social justice; it is, according to advocates like RICCE, a critical element for Liberia’s oil palm industry’s sustainable development and global competitiveness.
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