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Last Updated: 07/04/2010A Gender Critique of the National Adaptation Programme of Action toward Climate Change in Post-conflict Liberia: Emphasis on the Agricultural Sector
Horace P. Nagbe
Following fourteen years of devastation, the Liberian nation faces global climate change variability, which poses a major threat to its economic sectors, especially the agricultural sector, which is noted for its cardinal contribution towards the embellishment of the national economy (in terms of employment and the GDP). Notably, most of the workers within this sector are women, especially the rural dwellers, who are = the most vulnerable. In an effort to remedy the situation, a National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA) was crafted by the Liberian government, following a global climate change summit held in Bali, 2007. This plan seeks to adequately address the situation, alleviate poverty and foster the process of national recovery and development. Generally, the NAPA attempts to develop the capacity of institution and individual in an effort to address the mainstreaming of the method of adaptation into the national development planning process. However, the NAPA has failed to acknowledge the efforts and ideologies of women, especially the rural women, who are currently and greatly involved in the agricultural sector of the country. Therefore, it is important to involve the women, who are already involved, if the NAPA is to be a success in terms of its goals and objectives.
Geopolitical Background of Liberia
Liberia is an African nation situated on the West Coast of the continent and bordered by the Ivory Coast on the East, Sierra Leone on the West, Guinea on the North, and the Atlantic Ocean on the South. With the total land area of 43,000 sq. miles, it has a current population of 3,441,790. The country was founded as a nation in 1821 and independent in 1847, through the efforts of the freed slaves from America, under the auspices of the America Colonization Society (ACS). Liberia is composed of three distinct and yet coordinated branches of government, supposedly working for the common good of the Liberian people. These branches include: the Legislative, which makes the laws (headed by a Speaker); Judiciary, which Interprets the laws (headed by a Chief Justice), and the Executive, which enforces the laws (headed by the President).
Statistically, Liberia’s unemployment rate, stood at 85% in 2003, thus an adverse 15% employment rate. Climatically, Liberia is tropical and humid, with a heavy downpour of rain at an average of 183in. (465cm) on the coast, and 88in. (224cm) in the Southeast. Liberia accounts for “four distinct relief zones: the coastal belt, rolling hills, plateaus and northern highlands and two seasons: rainy season (April – October) and dry season (November – March),” followed by a harmattan wind, which makes the weather very cold in the months of December and January.
According to UNEP, the country is situated within the “West African Monsoon Climate, which alternates between wet and dry periods, without necessarily depending on changing temperature but determined by the prevailing moisture-laden monsoon winds that come from the southwest, hitting the coast at roughly a right angle. Resultantly, the air rises and condenses; thus a heavy precipitation ensues.” The average rainfall in Liberia falls between 4770 mm along the coast and 2030 mm in the interior. As a result of the equatorial position of the country, the sun stands overhead at noon throughout the year, producing a “temperature range of 28 degree Celsius to 32 degree Celsius.”In terms of natural resources, Liberia is blessed with water, mineral resources, forests, and a climate favorable to agriculture and had been a producer and exporter of basic products including raw timber, rubber, cocoa, coffee and many others.
Economically, Liberia survives by means of exportation and importation, which is practically done through the agriculture and fishery, forestry, and mining sectors. Its GDP in terms of purchasing power “parity is $1.627 billion.” At the level of labor force, Liberia statistics are as follows:
Most of the commodities that are exported by the government come from the agricultural, forestry and mining sectors and thus boost the economy.
The deliberate threat being posed by global climate change variability is also posing serious threat to the various economic sectors of Liberia. Besides, it has caused some level of impacts, especially on the agricultural and fishery sectors, of which the agricultural sector is noted for its major contribution to the national economy in light of employment and the GDP. Within the agricultural sector (of the post-conflict Liberian society), rural dwellers are the most vulnerable and affected group of people. Most of them are women with much more responsibility for the survival and/or livelihood of their families. Some of the effects of climate change variability on women include spending more time and energy than ever in the agricultural field, as a way of ensuring the wellbeing of the families and falling prey to water and air borne diseases, whilst the men (their spouses) are involved with something different.
Relative to the climatic change effects on water resources, women are more affected, as they travel longer distances to fetch water for the purposes of cooking, laundry, and other personal uses. The vulnerability, effects and means of adaptation and/or mitigation towards climate change situations should then place more emphasis on the women, who are the poorest amongst the poor; the most vulnerable amongst the vulnerable; and the most affected amongst the affected. These categorizations of women are direct results of the socio-culturally constructed gender roles and responsibilities by patriarchal systems within the society.
Having desperately affected all sectors of the post-conflict Liberian society, including but not limited to the economic and human resources, concerns were raised by the President (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf), who admitted to the threats and impacts of climate change, despite efforts being made towards national recovery, development and the alleviation of poverty following 14 years of devastation. She then emphasized the need for massive “awareness amongst the populace on the consequences of their various actions in light of the environment, as well as the preservation of the country’s ecosystem.”
As a member of the international community and the United Nations, Liberia was represented at the 2007 Bali international conference on climate change, which intended to address such phenomenon. Following the conference, which required all COP/MOP including Liberia, to create national adaptation plans, the government created an action plan called the ‘National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA).’ This plan is aimed at addressing the situation of climate change, alleviating poverty and as well fostering national recovery and development. Most importantly, the Liberian NAPA aims at embellishing the capacity of institutions and individuals in an effort to pontificate the establishment of the method of climate change adaptation into the national recovery plans of the country.
In the wake of addressing this important issue (of climate change), the Liberian NAPA identifies women as the most vulnerable and affected people. Thus, according the action plan, they (women) would profit from the initiative, following the enforcement of its various strategies. However, the plan (NAPA) seems to lack gender perspectives or gender-sensitivity, in spite of the greater involvement of women in every sector of the economy including agriculture, as well as the manner in which they are affected by the change of the climate. This was then identified by the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in accordance with an ECOSOC resolution (2006/2009), an "emerging issue that requires increased attention for consideration at each annual session, taking into account developments at the global and regional levels, as well as planned activities within the United Nations. The CWS then decided and considered the inclusion of gender perspectives on the issue of climate change at the UNFCCC’s 52nd session, through an interactive expert panel."
Therefore, realizing the need for gender perspectives into all fabrics of the Liberian society, including its plans and applications, this research critiques its National Adaptation Programme of Action, through a gender lens and encourages a technical revision for the purpose of effectiveness and efficiency.
Definition, Types and Impacts of Climate Change
By definition, climate change is:
Also, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) describes Climate change as the “impact of an ever warmer planet brought by increased levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are trapped in the atmosphere.” Climate change is likewise “caused by both internal and external forces like the earth’s orbit, solar radiation and greenhouse gas concentrations, giving the ice age as an example which focuses the effects of climate change on humanity.”
Accordingly, climate change comes in one or many of the following ways: gallery (glaciers before and after), gallery (monster waves), gallery (hurricanes from above), electric earth (lightning gallery), multimedia (goldilocks and the greenhouse), environment and global warming. Thus, it negatively impacts every system. Generally, it is understood from two broad perspectives: sectoral and regional. By sectoral, it is referring to changes that are likely experienced within various sectors, in terms of ‘natural and human resources,’ and with serious indications on societies that often exacerbate abiding susceptibilities amongst community dwellers. For example, it impacts agriculture, health, water resources, species and natural areas, coastal areas, the forest, and general humanity. Meanwhile, the regional perspective refers to how the impact of climate change varies according to geographical location, as well as the ability for a region to adapt to the changing conditions.
Impacts of Climate Change in Post-conflict Liberia (emphasis on the Agricultural Sector)
Before the armed conflict, Liberia had customarily depended on the mining of iron ore, gold, diamonds, rubber, timber, and shipping registration revenues as its eminent sources of economic boost. The Liberian economy flourished in the late 1960s and 1970s, with the exportation of iron ore, timber and diamond. During the senseless civil war, various warring factions exploited diamonds as a way of enriching themselves and bolstering the war. Thus, much of the infrastructures including mining were brought to a (long term) halt, with most of the inhabitants resolving to the agriculture sector for survival. Small farmers produced rubber; notwithstanding, almost all part of the agricultural activities has been subsistence farming. Hence, the formal economy came to a standstill, whilst the agricultural sector dominated the national economy and provided for the survival of farmers and their families.
Following the first postwar “democratic” elections (1997), funds allocated by the government for agricultural and reconstruction purposes were beneath the required comparability intended to resuscitate the economy, despite the fact that the fishery, forestry and especially agricultural sectors employed 70% and contributed 60% of GDP. Much of the country’s budget then was spent on military and defense, with no concern for the wellbeing of the country and its (impoverished) masses. Thus, climate change currently poses austere menace to the national recovery and development processes of Liberia, following the 14 years of destruction, which left the country decimated. Such hazards are felt within the economic support sectors (energy, forestry, industrial, mining, agricultural and fishery) of the country.
Amongst the many being posed is the rising sea level, which erodes the beaches and creates losses of territories along the coastline, where an estimated 50% of the country’s population live and make their livelihoods. As a result, many are displaced, jobless and without any means of livelihood. Thus, Liberia is negatively impacted by falling below sea level. The erosion and other effects are often the result of heavy rainfall, which may be caused by a high level of increase in the greenhouse gas emission.
Besides, the change in climate also alters the main source of livelihood (agriculture) in the country. Its impact within the agricultural sector include the erosion of soil, decadence of farm lands, drought and the lost of biodiversity, which risks the livelihood of small holder households. Also, the absence of an effective early warning system as mentioned in the Liberia NAPA is another major problem. During soil erosion and the deterioration of farm land areas, women are the ones mostly seen as creating a means of adaptation, including placing crops in the nursery stage and raising their dwellings above the floods to avoid water erosion. Factors leading to all of the aforementioned impacts in the Liberian society are associated with the shifting of cultivation period and sites; the unsustainable logging practices by the Oriental Timber Company (OTC) during the Taylor-led regime included “unregulated coastal mining; high levels of biomass consumption (charcoal and fire wood), and the decrease of river flows as a result of the high evaporation.’
In developing countries and especially within the rural areas, women assume the responsibility of providing water and energy for cooking and heating, and as well ensuring the security of food in the family. Hence, they are often vulnerable and are negatively affected by drought, uncertain rainfall, and deforestation as well as other impacts of climate change like migration.
Women are not only victims of the variability of climate change, but people who are endowed with the ability to effect change as well, relative to mitigating and adapting to the changeability of the climate. They also have a large body of consciousness that could be appropriated in mitigating climate changes; the decrement of disaster, and the development of strategies (within the agricultural sector). Their socio-culturally given responsibilities as administrators of the soil have situated them to the point of being able to adapt to changing environmental realities, and as well develop strategies toward livelihood. In my opinion, every and all adaptation strategies/plans should be gender-sensitive, and incorporate and address gender-specific issues. Just as the United Nations Secretary General rightly stated, "Adaptation efforts should systematically and effectively address gender-specific impacts of climate change in the areas of energy, water, food security, agriculture and fisheries, biodiversity and ecosystem services, health, industry, human settlements, disaster management, and conflict and security."
However, and in the case of the Liberia National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), women are underrepresented and their ability to valuably contribute towards the variability of climate change is impeded.Currently, there is no constitutional provision in the Liberian society that allows or disallows a woman to own land, though in rare cases some women own land. Also, given the low yielding of crops, changes in the planting and harvesting season, as well as the migration of people from one place to another, the rate of hunger rises with most children suffering from mal-nutrition while others die along the way. Basically, the impact of climate change within the agricultural sector of Liberia results in mass poverty as it is an employer of 70% of the country’s population, most of whom are women.
The Bali 2007 International Convention
Climate change negatively affects the entire globe and results in many social and economic issues such as migration, conflicts, diseases, deaths, destruction of infrastructures, etc. Thus, the need to investigate and devise ways forward to save the globe and humanity from such destruction and impending danger as proposed by scientists could not be ignored. Henceforth, many international conferences on climate change were held including the 2007 Bali international conference, which resulted in an “ambitious goal of achieving a new global climate agreement in 2009.”
The Bali document features the urgent need, as well as an extraordinary difficulty involved in pursuing a well defined agreement intended to diminish global greenhouse gas emissions. Underscoring the issue of time and the urgent need to devise mechanisms, governments represented at the conference could only consent on the most general parameters for the process of going forward and leaving “all the key issues to future talks.” One of the major issues addressed during the conference was the vulnerability and incapacitation of developing countries to adapt to the climatic change variability. Hence, following two weeks of discussion, governments from developed and powerful countries made some efforts on a number of the cardinal issues including funding sources to enhance emerging nations in adapting to climate change; and to make the necessary move in the depreciation of sweltering desertification. The conference provides that developing countries face two major challenges: technology and finance, while accordingly they were seen resisting hard commitments involved.
Previously, developing countries disagreed with the decision to mediate assessable actions that can be verified and reported. However, following many discussions and engagements between and amongst developed countries, they (developing countries) consented to commit themselves to the agreement, coupled with a new commitment stance. Concurrently, the convention sought to address four elements – mitigation, adaptation, technology, and investment and finance, which should be ending in 2009. For developing countries such as Liberia, the decision called for actions that would be supportive of technology that are embellished by financing and capacity-building. The agreement particularly notes the inclusion of policy approaches and positive incentives in the mitigation process.
Furthermore, the document calls for renewed efforts to enhance adaptation to the impacts of climate change, in order to dismiss encumbrances and accommodate for financial support towards the development and transfer of technology (to developing countries), including other incentives that might provide for ‘mitigation and adaptation by developing countries.’ Important to note concerning the funds donated by developed countries toward the adaptation strategies of developing countries, is the argument proposed by developing countries relative to the management of the fund by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), which is influenced by donor countries. Developing countries called for a governance structure that would allow them to have more say in the decision-making process. As a result, a ‘16-member Adaptation Fund Board’ was established to administer the fund and develop benchmarks to cinch the ‘administrative and financial’ capabilities of governments that might need funding. The committee was also given the responsibility to approve adaptation projects and programmes proposed by (developing countries’) governments. Thus, the Liberian government created a National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), to address the issue of climate change, which affects its economic fabric.
A Gender Critique of the Liberian National Adaptation Programme of Action
Adaptation to climate change in the post-conflict Liberian society stands at a high peak for consideration, as the country engages many programmes toward national recovery and development following the 14 years of devastation. Despite the local, traditional and other means developed to address the extreme climatic phenomenon, the need for a national plan remains important. According to Dr. Eugene Shannon, Chairman, of the Environmental Policy Council, the Liberian NAPA would afford Liberia the opportunity to conduct a systematic reflection in collaboration with a well defined group of decision-makers in the society, relative to the category of strategies that might augment the abilities of communities that are susceptible to the ugly aftermath of climate change, in an effort to grapple with the compelling and critical needs that are connected to addressing the issue.Shannon notes that the excellent set of recommendations is capable of paving the way for the embellishment of “institutional and individual capacity to address the mainstreaming of adaptation into national development planning.” He further notes that the most vulnerable and affected people are those living in the rural areas, most of whom are women and children. The document provides that such groups would be benefit from the positive outcomes of the strategies, when implemented; and that those recommendations would invigorate the caliber of the country in light of meeting the after-effects of climate change. It is further noted that the strategies would embody several means by which the needs of Liberia are adequately addressed at all levels. The preparation of the document was spearheaded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and became the outcome of a “highly consultative effort that includes experts, government policymakers, NGO representatives and assorted stakeholders from rural communities.”
The preparation process accordingly considered the guidelines of the Least Developed Country Expert Group (LEG) which “accounts for the synergies between adaptation and national development plans such as the National Reconstruction and Development Plan (NRDP), as well as the Multi-lateral initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the National Biodiversity and Strategy Action Plan.” The planning process is said to also include all sectors of the society, ranging from pressure groups to academicians and research institutions. The document then seeks to address the climatic situation from two levels: policy and project.
On the policy level, it accordingly seeks to abate the impacts of climate change and as well promote sustainable development by:
And in terms of the project, the document aims at diminishing the susceptibility of local communities, and as well augments the involvement of many technocrats and ideologies to address the issue through:
In an effort to successfully address climate change situation in Liberia, the document highlights some fundamental post-conflict development challenges vis-à-vis the climatic risks throughout the country. These include the "decline of agricultural lands and the lost of biodiversity, which put small holder households at risk; the absence of an effective early warning system that could allow farmers and other stakeholders to make informed decisions on production strategies, and the coastal erosion, which mainly affects low-lying areas such as the urban centers of Robertsport, Monrovia, Buchanan and Cestos."
In most societies, women are given greater responsibilities in catering for the wellbeing of families including the older people, and they make considerable contribution to the income generation in combating poverty. Hence, Rohr asserts that climate change causes additional strain on women, especially in terms of climatically changed patterns. Similarly, in the Liberian context, women have greater responsibilities in catering for the wellbeing of the families, something that allows them to create every means possible to ensure happiness by the performance of their duties. Yet, they are less considered in the planning and decision-making processes of whatever affects the family, community and country, of which they are often the most affected. The document (NAPA) indeed looks and sounds good; however, it lacks gender perspectives and sensitivity, though it claims to incorporate women organizations and the rural community members at its planning stages.
The inequality between men and women, which increases women’s burden, is yet to be given considerable attention by legislation, policies and their implementation frameworks in Liberia, as is the case of the NAPA. The issue of gender parity has not been sufficiently considered in the concrete implementation of climate policy at the local and national levels (Ulrike 2009). Concentrating on the agricultural sector of Liberia, women do perform most of the agricultural work, especially those within the rural areas. However, their access to, and control over land is yet restricted, despite the level of their involvement. In my opinion, the reason is attributed to a male-dominant parliament, where legislation is mostly created and enacted.
The deterioration of the soil productivity, which is caused by climate change, is coercing women to exert more time and energy to producing food for their families, whilst they are yet the most economically disadvantaged group of people, especially the indigenous and landless women. In Liberia and especially in its rural settings, women lack control of the proceeds from all agricultural works and sales of produce. The men have absolute power and control; despite they do very little to assist the women. Thus, there is a greater need for more legislation relative to the issue of inequalities between women and men, with greater consideration to their specific issues.
The Liberia NAPA sounds and looks good as it claims to benefit vulnerable groups, which it categorizes as those living in the coastal and rural areas and survive on fishing, farming and low level trading. Notwithstanding, it is insensitive to the plights of women, based on the gender-neutral terminologies (vulnerable people) employed therein. Though it determines to address most of the conditions created by the climatic situation including the timing of crop cultivation, inundation, and the accession of lowland farming practices among others, all of these are already practically being done by women in a local or traditional way. Thus, it only requires including those women, who are already involved with traditional adaptation strategies. On the contrary, the NAPA is quite inconsiderate of the participation of women in the formulation, application, as well as the governance processes, especially the rural women, who are directly involved with the agricultural sector.
What seems more intriguing is that the current government is being run by a woman, who is considerably concerned with the issue of gender equity as is evidence at the level of the Executive Branch. Thus it baffles me to note that the document, which is highly influenced by the executive branch of government, is insensitive to the specific issues women face in light of climate change variability, especially within the agricultural sector. I am also astounded at the inconsiderable involvement of women on the steering and project management committees, which are highly responsible for the strategic and governance processes of adaptation toward climate change within the country. Noticeably, the steering committee on the preparation and governance of the NAPA comprises of twenty-one members and yet only one woman (Eunice Dargbe) is part of the committee, while the project management team, which supposedly manages all projects relating to the NAPA, is comprised of four members without a female representation. 
Conclusively, it is quite engendering to have a National Adaptation Programme of Action that discusses the risks and effects of climate change in Liberia. In my opinion, the document is comprehensive in its scope and recognizes all affected parts of the country especially the agricultural sector, with which this paper is with which this paper is concerned; yet, the document misses the most important concerns in adequately addressing the issue of climate change. That is, the Liberia NAPA is boorish of the involvement and participation of women, who are categorically and practically involved with the agricultural field and as well began the process of adaptation towards the climate change variability as stated above. In my opinion, any attempt to disregard and alienate the specific issues of women, especially rural women, all efforts relative to addressing climate change situations as well as enhancing the national recovery and development agenda of the country will prove difficult if not impossible.
Henceforth, I recommended that the document (NAPA) be revised and give consideration to the specific issues face by women as a result of climatic changes, especially within the rural and agricultural sector. In this regard, it should consider the equal participation of both men and women on the steering and project management committee and team, especially with the inclusion of women that are gender-sensitive and have vast practical knowledge of what is happening in the rural areas, relative to agricultural works. I also recommend that the government establishes sub-committees in the rural settings, to buttress and implement the operational strategies of the documents. Meanwhile, I recommend the technological training of those women, even as most of the works are to be done through the use of technology. With this being done, the effects of climate change in the post-conflict Liberian society will reduce and/or be eradicated.
 2010 CIA World Factbook and other Sources, Liberia People 2010, (Last Updated January 15, 2010; Published 8 February 2010), www.theodora.com/wfbcurrent/liberia/liberia_people.htm. (accessed April 28, 2010)
 UNEP. Liberia National Adaptation Programme of Action (2008) http://www.clacc.net/knowledge/Documents/Napa/Liberia.pdf (accessed April 28, 2010)
 CIA World Factbook, Liberia Economy 2010, (Copyright-1995-2010-Modified and published 8 February 2010), www.theodora.com/wfbcurrent/liberia/liberia_economy.html (accessed April 28, 2010)
 All-Africa.com: Liberia: Climate Change Threatens Country, (18 June 2009), http://www.allafrica.com/stories/200906180900.html-56k (accessed April 30, 2010)
 52nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Interactive Expert Panel, Emerging Issues, trends and new approaches to issues affecting the situation of women or equality between women and men, “Gender perspectives on climate change”, (Thursday, 28 February 2008, 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.), A Gender Analysis of the Environment and Sustainable Development Reader,
 G. Malla. (2008). Climate Change and Its Impacts on Nepalese Agriculture, Journal of Agriculture and Environment, Volune 9, www.nepjol.info/index.pjp/AEJ/article/viewFile/2119/1952 (accessed April 28,
 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, www.un.org/.../Climate_Change.../Climate_Change_for_Social_Studies%20.doc (accessed April 29, 2010)
 Exploring herat, Types of Climate Change Impacts, www.ecoseed.org/en/general-reference/green.../climate-change (accessed April 29, 2010)Liberia National Adaptation Programme of Action (2008) http://www.clacc.net/knowledge/Documents/Napa/Liberia.pdf (accessed April 28, 2010)Programme
 Changing the Climate: Why Women’s Perspectives Matter. Women’s Environment and Development Organization Information Sheet (2007), p2
 See generally the Report of the Secretary-General on overview of UN activities in relation to climate change A/62/644.
 Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Thirteenth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Third Session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, (Bali, Indonesia, December 3-15, 2007), p1
 Ibid.Liberia National Adaptation Programme of Action (2008) http://www.clacc.net/knowledge/Documents/Napa/Liberia.pdf (accessed April 28, 2010)Programme
 Ulrike Rohr, Gender in Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation – Dialogue on Globalization, (January 2009), Fact Sheet No 1
 Ibid.Liberia National Adaptation Programme of Action (2008) http://www.clacc.net/knowledge/Documents/Napa/Liberia.pdf (accessed April 28, 2010)Programme
Horace P. Nagbe is an MA candidate of the Gender and Peacebuilding programme at the UN-mandated University for Peace