Oil Palm in Liberia: A Subsidy from Nature in the Post-Conflict Economy

Authors: Catherine Bishop*, University of New England
Topics: Development, Africa, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: development, agriculture, conflict, oil palm, Liberia
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Mid-City, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

During the civil war from 1989 to 2003, agriculture on both smallholder farms and large plantations was severely disrupted as people fled from areas of violent conflict throughout the country. As people returned to their communities over the following decade, the government of Liberia encouraged a variety of agricultural activities meant to stimulate reintegration and economic development in rural areas. With the support of industrial actors and external funders such as USAID, the government has heavily promoted revitalization of the oil palm sector based on the production of hybrid trees. Although Liberian smallholders are eager to benefit from a potentially profitable cash crop, they also rely on the wild variety of oil palm as a crucial “subsidy from nature” (Hecht, Anderson, and May 1988). The outputs and uses of different varieties of oil palm play important roles in livelihood diversification strategies in the post-conflict economy, complicating dominant development processes intended to replace wild trees with high-yielding hybrids.

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