The population of the world according to the World Bank is expected to hit a record 10 billion people by the end of 2020. This means that there will be an unprecedented demand for food across the globe due to an anticipated rise in the price of basic edibles. The current population statistics of the world are put at 7 billion people. To date, 63% of the total population in South Sahara Africa, live in rural settlements. The birth rate is high, almost double compare to other regions of the world. Member countries of the United Nations have been encouraged to invest in agriculture, especially; massive food production as a means of curbing a potential global food scarcity that will soon hit the planet. Arguably, most African Countries and governments do not have the required funding and expertise to produce food on a large scale. Most countries on the continent are involved with subsistence farming (shifting cultivation), only able to produce food for their tables- and not enough to export. For instance, Liberia has a total land bank of over 9.8 million hectares, most of which is abandoned farmland and tropical forest. The Country is growing at an annual rate of 2.1%. Liberia's population increased from about 2.1 million in 1984 to 3.5 million in 2008 (LISGIS, 2009). [According to the World Factbook the July 2011 estimated population was 3.9 million, with a growth rate of 2.609%]. About 53% of the population lives in rural areas, and 70% of the active population are engaged in agricultural activities. Agriculture is the dominant contributor to export trade and earnings and a source of livelihood for a greater number of people than any other sector. The sector is dominated by traditional subsistence farming systems. The use of modern technology is limited. Slash-and-burn farming, where forest lands are cleared, burned and upland rice cropped together with other crops is the primary production system. Agriculture contributes to Liberia's GDP Between 2008 and 2009 agriculture contributed 42% of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (CBL, 2009). The food crops sub-sector dominates agriculture's contribution to the national GDP. Rice is the main staple food grown by over 74% of the population on uplands (CFSNS, 2008). Cassava is the second most important food crop grown by about 62% of the population (CAAS-Lib, 2007). Paddy rice and cassava production and area harvested increased by more than 3% per annum during the period 2001-2009. Rice and cassava contributed 22% and 23% of the agricultural GDP respectively (CBL, 2009). Tree crops, especially rubber, cocoa and coffee make an important contribution to the economy, accounting for 34% of the agricultural GDP in 2008 (CBL, 2009). Rubber is the most important cash crop and revenue from rubber export increased from US$ 150 million (95% of the total export revenue) in 2006 to US$ 206 million or 86% of the total export earnings in 2008 (CBL, 2009). Agricultural output is derived from three types of farms: traditional, commercial and concession. The traditional farming systems involve production of food and export crops (mainly coffee and cocoa, and recently, rubber), plus oil palm both for home consumption and for the market. The commercial farms are mainly owned and operated by Liberians engaged in the production of fruits, coffee, oil palm, cocoa and poultry and pigs. The third model is the foreign-owned concession plantations that produce mostly rubber and palm oil (CAAS-Lib, 2007). Back in 2009 the World Oil Palm giant, Sime Darby Plantations signed a concession agreement with the Liberian government to develop 220, 000 hectares of land in Western Liberia into green fields of Oil palm and rubber plantations. The Malaysian conglomerate, which enjoys a reputation that spans from over 150 years as leader in the oil palm industry has been able to make significant impacts on the lives of the local population especially rural dwellers. Malaysia and Indonesia are two classical examples, producing about 2.47 million tones or 5% of the world's Crude Palm Oil (CPO) output annually. According Ministry of Labor authorities, Sime Darby currently pays daily wages workers more than US$5.65 , the highest so far in the agriculture sector in the country. Sime Darby to Make History Following three years operations in Liberia , Sime Darby is poised to make history in West Africa , after it announced recently that oil production will commence in 2015, following the construction of its first ever oil mill in Western Liberia . The Company has planted 10,000 hectares of Land into oil palm. According to Sime Darby's head of Project in Liberia , RoslinAzmy Hassan, Liberia could see a shift in its economic nightmare when Oil palm production fully kicks off. "What I am saying is that, once we start to get more land for expansion into new areas, and with an oil mill constructed by September 2015 - this economic nightmare could turn around for this country." Roslin said. Roslin told a high profile delegation of senior journalists during a tour of the company's facilities and other projects last week that Oil produced next year will service the Liberian market first and then later exported to other markets around the globe, especially European markets. Villagers in Western Liberia will not only be among the first group of people on the continent to export palm Oil from Africa's oldest republic, but will experience a dramatic growth in trade and commerce, basic social services (healthcare delivery, roads, schools and employment). Sime Darby runs a school system of about 17 schools, which caters for employees, contractors as well as none employees. Every single township with SDPL Concession area according to Roslin is enjoying a well maintained road network. To date, Sime Darby has employed over 2900 Liberians- one of the highest employment data within the oil palm sector. For the first time in almost three years, villagers in Western Liberia especially Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties are beginning to see the need to surrender more abandoned farm land to Sime Darby for development. Last year the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with villagers to develop 5,000 hectares of land into oil palm plantation in Zoduah, a settlement west of Sinje- the administrative seat of Garwula district. In similar manner Senje district in Bomi County extended an invitation to Sime Darby to develop almost 2,000 hectares of abandoned farm land into productive land. "We have been getting so many requests from people asking us to go and develop their land; but we cannot just go into those areas. We need to do FPIC. Without Free Prior Inform Consent Sime Darby can never go to those areas," Roslin told newsmen. The regulation of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is the top most priority of Sime Darby in its expansion plan for Liberia , Roslin told journalists. "Our New Planting Procedure is straight and a complete zero tolerant one. We leave a minimum of 2 kilometers buffer zone between any town and our plantation. In most cases we will go beyond the 2 kilometer buffer, but that is our set standard," Roslin told an inquiring Journalist. Sime Darby is doing business in 21 countries around the world with at least 100,000 employees. The company produces and supplies Food & Beverages to markets; which include a range of fast moving consumer goods products such as, cooking oil, juices, margarine and cooking sauces to the Malaysian market as well as other markets in Asia , Europe and the Americas . The facts and food organization has reported that oil palm is single most sustainable tree crop that is used for food production. Oils and fats are vital nutrients required by the human body to achieve and maintain good health. There are two types of natural fats - saturated and unsaturated fats. An adequate amount of fat is necessary in the human diet for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. Palm oil provides the right amounts of fat in a balanced diet. Vitamins A and E, essential for the normal growth and development of the human body, is obtained through food consumption. All vegetable oils contain natural vitamin E in compounds such as tocopherols and tocotrienols. Palm oil has the richest known content of natural tocotrienols. Studies have shown that tocotrienol helps lower bad cholesterol levels and protects the brain against diseases. Palm oil is also high in carotenoids; a rich source of vitamin A. Carotenoids can be stored in the body and be converted to vitamin A when needed. Vitamin A stimulates the immune system and controls the growth and functions of body tissues. Red palm oil, or mildly refined palm oil, has seventeen times more carotenoids than carrots. Palm oil is cholesterol-free and trans fat free. It is composed mainly of triglycerides of fatty acid with a balanced composition between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. The latter comprises 40% monounsaturated and 10% polyunsaturated Liberia : World #4 Poorest Country Liberia is still experiencing economic shocks from a devastating civil conflict that shattered the nation's economy. Even though it is one of two countries in sub-Sahara Africa without roots in the European Scramble of Africa , the country sits at #4 as the World's poorest country with a GDP of just 672 per capita incomes since July 2012 . Power and running water are scarce in most part of the country. The country's wartime economy exploited its diamond resource, exporting over $300 million in blood diamonds annually, the report says. The unemployment rate is still at an alarming rate, recording at 70%. Thanks to Sime Darby and other concessioners who help to drop the unemployment from 85%. An average Liberian survives on less than $1.50 US per day. Life expectancy is only at 56.58 years, the infant mortality rate in 2010 was 76.43 per 1000 live births (18th in the world) and there are an estimated 35,000 people living with AIDS. The percentage of people living without access to potable running water and adequate sanitation facilities is amongst the highest in the world.
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