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In Sierra Leone, Rural and Private Sector Development Project: THE ROAD TO FOOD SECURITY
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Feb 9, 2012, 17:06
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Sierra Leone is endowed with sufficient arable land with favorable climatic conditions, reasonable access to land; several agro-ecologies suitable for wide variety of crops, abundant water resources and political commitment for investment in the sectors.


Promoting agriculture and achieving food security is at the heart of the ‘Agenda for Change’ of His Excellency President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma. The Agenda calls on agriculture to be the engine for economic growth with a focus on production, processing and marketing of domestically consumed and export oriented crops.

RPSDP Marketing Officer, Abdul Salim, addressing stakeholders


As part of efforts to realize this noble vision of the President, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and the Ministry of Trade and Industry are jointly implementing the World Bank funded Rural and Private Sector Development Project in all 13 districts in the country, including the Western Area.


The main objective of the project is to increase agriculture production and add value to agricultural produce through the improvement of all transactions along the chain of activity, from pre-planting to marketing. This will increase the income of project beneficiaries, which include farmers, traders, wholesalers, processors and exporters.

Processing Equipments in Port Loko


Major components of the Rural and Private Sector Development Project include domestic marketing improvement, agricultural export promotion and support to Farmer based Orgainsations (FBOs).

 

So far over 400km of feeder roads have been rehabilitated, and over 70 FBOs with total membership running into thousands have been supported with post-harvest processing infrastructural facilities and processing equipments to reduce post-harvest losses, ensure quality and standard output, and strengthen their bargaining power.


Proud farmers display their vegetables in Koinadugu

 

In the first phase of an information gathering visits to the project areas, a team from the RPSDP visited all 5 districts in the Northern Region and Kono in the East, to get first hand information on activities and the impact of the project in the lives of beneficiaries.  In Kambia district, the team was taken on a conducted tour of several farms and witnessed first-hand how farmers, inspired by the support they were receiving from the project, have stepped up cultivation of large acres of cassava and rice farms to boost food security. In addition to increase cultivation, farmers have also been supplied with processing facilities and equipments, all of which contributes significantly to the quality and value of the final products. The team visited several of these sites and was very impressed with what was seen.


The Rural and Private Sector Development Project has supported over 20 farmer based organizations in Kambia with improved varieties of seed rice and cassava cuttings, construction of stores, sheds, drying floors and installation of agro-processing machines. From all indications, this support is being put into good use as was evident in the large acres of farms cultivated and processing activities were in full swing when the team arrived at each of the processing centres.


Multi-purpose processing centre in Rokupr


From Kambia, the team moved on to Port Loko, which has also benefited from multiple infrastructural and processing facilities and equipments under the project.

 

The impact of the project was self evident when the team arrived at the processing site constructed for Women Farmers in Worenbana, Buya Romende chiefdom. Farmers were full of praises for the support they have received and how it has impacted their lives positively.


They revealed that they are now able to sell their products at higher market value as a result of the quality, thanks to processing equipments provided under the project.

 

From Port Loko, the next stop was Koinadugu district; this district is renowned for the cultivation of fruits and vegetables by very hardworking and committed farmers. However, the perishable nature of these produce has always posed a serious threat of post-harvest losses to these farmers, including loss of premium quality along the value chain, which forces farmers to either sell their produce at give-away prices or risk losing them all. As a direct response to this threat, the Rural and Private sector Development Project intervened by providing a fully equipped cool room in the district, which inspired farmers to step up cultivation, confident that they can securely store the increased output, determine their own price, sell at their own pace and get the full value for their efforts.

 

In addition to this support, nine rice processing stores have also been constructed in Koinadugu to boost cultivation and processing of the staple food, rice. The team visited one of the rice processing centres to assess progress made in producing the staple food, rice.


As the team moved to Bombali and Tonkolili, there was no doubt that Sierra Leone is well on the way to achieving food security. Cultivation of the staple food rice has been stepped up and farmers were confident that this years yield will be remarkable.

 

The drive towards food security requires commitment and hard work from farmers in all parts of the country, and with the support of the Rural and private Sector Development Project, no district is lagging behind. The eastern district of Kono is well known for its diamond. What is not widely known however is the huge agricultural potential of the district, which has arable land suitable for the cultivation of produce such as the staple food rice and the cash-crop cocoa.

 

Thanks largely to the intervention of the Rural and Private Sector development Project, the people of Kono are now earning income from agriculture. The team visited a cocoa processing centre in Nimikoro Chiefdom were work was ongoing at an impressive pace: Kono district exported 35.5 metric tones of cocoa in 2010; this was increased to 86.6 metric tones in 2011, and from all indications this figure will again increase in 2012.


The Rural and Private Sector Development Project seeks to address the problems faced by farmers such as low on-farm productivity, low quality of yields, high post-harvest loses, difficulty in accessing markets,and low returns for efforts.


The project aims to add value to farmers products so that they can achieve maximum benefit or value for work.

 

One thing that was self evident during the visit was the positive impact the project is having in the lives of beneficiaries


To date, a total of 275 Farmer Based Organizations and Traders Associations are being supported under the Matching Grants Fund. These include a pilot phase of 75 beneficiary groups, which commenced implementation in the first quarter of 2010; and a second phase of 200 beneficiary groups, which commenced implementation in 2011.


In collaboration with the Ministry of Works, Housing and infrastructure and Local Councils, the project is working on the rehabilitation of 468 Km of feeder roads in all thirteen (13) districts, and to date, approximately 421 Km (about 90%) of feeder roads, including intervening drainages and structures (culverts, bridges, etc.), has been completed nationwide. This has significantly increased access to market for rural farmers.


The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first steps, and in Sierra Leone, the Rural and Private Sector Development Project is helping farmers take those crucial steps towards feeding the nation and putting money in their pockets.


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