US Ambassador to UN food agencies Ertharin Cousin* visited Liberia to see for herself how WFP is assisting the refugees who fled the violence in Côte d'Ivoire, host communities and other vulnerable populations.
“We were pleased (…) with the operation we observed and with the refugee support not just from the aid agencies, but from the Liberian Government,” said Ertharin Cousin, US Ambassador to UN Agencies in Rome, upon completion of an intensive visit of WFP and FAO project sites in the Liberian countryside.
Ambassador Cousin, along with US Ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and other USAID, WFP and FAO representatives, dedicated several days, often traveling along rough country roads, to reach some of the more remote locations of the country. The team visited agricultural projects for Liberian nationals, villages hosting refugees, a refugee camp and met with humanitarian workers.
Based in Rome, Ambassador Cousin’s diplomatic activities are primarily centred around the two UN Agencies with headquarters located there, WFP and FAO. As such, her primary concern while visiting Liberia was to observe the response efforts of these agencies, and to get a better sense of their coordination with the Government of Liberia and other partners.
At the Dokodan Farmers Cooperative in Gbedin Town, Ambassador Cousin praised the synergy that WFP, FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture have created by coordinating their programs. The impact of LAR (Livelihood Assets Rehabilitation), P4P (Purchase for Progress), and GCP (Government Cooperation Program) was clearly exhibited through the increased production and processing capacity of this Cooperative. Dokodan had a particularly good rice yield last year after WFP provided incentives to improve their irrigation systems and FAO provided improved seed varieties and fertilizers. The Cooperative members proudly showed the Ambassadors the two new power tillers that they were able to acquire on their own this year as a result of the profit they earned by selling their surplus rice through the P4P program.
Ambassador Cousin was equally impressed by the stories she heard in Kialay, a village where Ivorians have sought refuge. “My family came to this village because we already knew people here. During the Liberian conflict we hosted refugees in our home who told us they came from here, so we knew they would help us if we came to them,” explained the father of one refugee family.
At Bahn camp, the Ambassador met with the elected leaders of the community and learned that many were planning to stay on for longer than originally anticipated. She toured the facilities of the camp, observing food distribution activities and a community garden in which the refugees can work to grow produce and generate a small income.
Upon returning to Monrovia, the Ambassador held meetings with donors, UN agencies, NGOs and Government of Liberia officials. She also made a courtesy visit to the President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
*Ertharin Cousin became Executive Director of the World Food Programme on April 1, 2012.