Sierra Leone's Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay, is reported to have made great impact at the just concluded High Level Senior Officials meeting of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Member States on Food Security which was held in Izmir, Turkey on the 28 – 29 September, 2010.
The meeting comprised of Ministers of Agriculture and Senior Officials responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development. Also in attendance were representatives from the World Food Program (WFP), United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) etc.
The OIC institutions which participated in the meeting included, the General Secretariat, Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (COMCEC) coordinating office and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).
Ministers and Heads of Delegations gave their respective country perspectives on modalities for addressing the identified challenges in Agriculture and Rural Development.
At the end of the meeting, many recommendations emerged within the limelight of the challenges and the constraints that were presented during the workshop. These are grouped in five broad areas, namely- Policies and Institutions, Natural Resources, Sustainable Productivity Growth, Market Performance and Community Driven Development.
Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay accompanied by the Minister Counsellor/ Head of Chancery of the Sierra Leone Embassy in Riyadh, Mr. Ibrahim S. Yilla, presented Sierra Leone's case for a Food Security Project which have two components: National Irrigation Development Strategies (NIDS) and Small Holder Commercial Projects (SCP) both totaling 623 Million United States Dollars. At the end of the meeting, Dr. Sam Sesay was asked to give vote of thanks because of his brilliant performance at the meeting.
In a related development, the Minister also accompanied by Sierra Leone's Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Permanent Representative to the OIC, H.E Wusu Munu, has yesterday proceeded to attend the 26th Ministerial Session of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (COMCEC) being held in the Turkish capital, Istanbul.
The Istanbul meeting, according to a press release from the OIC Secretariat in Jeddah, will consider modalities for scaling up multi-stakeholders participation in agriculture, rural development and food security, within a comprehensive intra-OIC framework for cooperation in this sector.
In the same vein, the release adds, the meeting will hold a brainstorming session among invited Ministers of Agriculture from OIC member-states on agriculture and rural development. Discussions at this meeting will represent a precursor to the 5th Ministerial Conference on Agriculture and Food Security, scheduled to be held in Khartoum, Sudan, on 26-28 October 2010.
Below is the Minister’s speech at Izmir, Turkey …
Statement of Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security of
Sierra Leone , Dr. Joseph Sam. Sesay On Opening of Meeting of High Level Officials from OIC Member States on Food Security Izmir Turkey 28th September 2010
Mr. Chairman and also the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of Turkey
Your Excellencies Colleague Ministers
Other Heads of Delegations
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
It is indeed an honour and pleasure to attend this very important meeting in Izmir, Turkey at a time when the issue of Food Security is now the first global concern.
1. For Sierra Leone, the importance of Agriculture is self-evident: it contributes about 44 to 45% of GDP, about a quarter (25%) of export earnings and employs about 2/3rds (66%) of the population; the latter being a drop from about 3/4ths. According to an IMF assessment of the economy concluded 21 September this year, agriculture has been identified as the sector that is now seriously bolstering the economy of Sierra Leone.
2. Since October 2008, Sierra Leone started the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) process; a framework agreed by all Heads of State and Governments of Africa in Maputo, Mozambique in 2003 as the tool to help any African country to develop a long-term Agricultural Sector Investment Programme (ASIP). This decision was reached as recognition of the lead role of agriculture in the macroeconomics of Africa. In the Maputo Declaration, it was agreed that:
- Annual agricultural growth rate should be 6% in order to enable African countries to halve poverty and food insecurity by 2015 (UN MFG 1 target);
- Allocation of national budgets to agriculture should be a minimum of 10%.
3- The CAADP process in Sierra Leone led to the development of the National Sustainable Agricultural Development Prgoramme (NSADP), which is a long-term programme for the agriculture sector of the country. It is important to note that Sierra Leone used only national experts (about 50 of them) to review sector, highlight achievements, challenges and recommendations based on which the NSADP was developed. This was concluded with the signing of the CAADP Compact on 18th September 2009 in Freetown, under the auspices of our President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and the Vice President Honourable Alhaji Sam-Sumana. In fact, relevant Cabinet Ministers (Finance, Foreign Affairs, Trade, Works, Lands, Justice, Fisheries, Energy, Local Government), the Parliament, the Private Sector, Civil Society, the farmers and our donor partners were made to sign up to the Compact.
4. Like all long-term programmes, they are normally implemented in phases. For us, the first phase is 2010 to 2014. We chose to target the smallholder farmers because of the logic that: 77% of the people of Sierra Leone are poor, about 66% of the population are farmers, the bulk of which are smallholders. It is logical that:
- The majority of the poor people of Sierra Leone are smallholder farmers;
- In order to reduce poverty and food insecurity in Sierra Leone, the best targets are the smallholder farmers.
5. Thus the Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP) was formulated in order to transform the farmers from subsistent to commercial farmers. To be able to do that, an integrated approach has been used called the Agricultural Value Chain (AVC): Input Supply, Production, Agro-processing and Marketing, including exportation. That is, the SCP has been designed to assist farmers to commercialize along the Agricultural Value Chain. It also means that production-only support to farmers is grossly insufficient to extricate them form subsistence farming since access to improved inputs such as high-yielding varieties of planting materials. Agrochemicals, machinery, equipment and agricultural infrastructure is virtually impossible without subsidy for the smallholders who constitute the majority of the poor in Sierra Leone. Also, farmers suffer a post-harvest loss of between 40 to 60% which, if saved through post-harvest facilities for processing, storage and marketing, will not only boost the domestic supply of food and export commodities but will also seriously increase farmer incomes thereby enhancing poverty reduction and food security in the country.
6. The SCP has six (6) components:
- Commercialization of the Agricultural Value Chain through the supply of subsidized production inputs, processing, packaging, storage and marketing facilities through the construction of Agricultural Business Centers (ABCs). The capacity of the ABCs will be built to transform them into Limited Liability Companies of the farmers.
- Small-scale Irrigation System using borehole and pump method as well as the rehabilitation or construction of perennial swamps (lowlands that have 8 to 12 months of water supply in the year)
- Market Access: to facilitate marketing through the rehabilitation and construction of 6,038.5 km of feeder roads that will connect 300 producing areas to 200 markets country-wide and riverian transportation (since the main food producing areas are along the coastline).
- Agribusiness Financing
- Social Protection and Safety Nets: This component is meant to use humanitarian assistance through WFP, etc to support agricultural development through food and cash for work and training in infrastructure works (irrigation development, ABC construction, feeder roads, export or tree crop rehabilitation, etc.). As has been noted by the Executive Board and Management of WFP in Rome this year, this is the first time that a Government has included Social Protection in (agricultural) development. Therefore both the Government and WFP are very excited about this. In fact, the Government succeeded in getting good funding from an untraditional source-the EU, to support WFP under this component in Sierra Leone.
- Efficient and Effective Sector Management: covering coordination, planning, monitoring and evaluation, good financial and procurement management with technical assistance, agricultural statistics and report writing as well as Partner Mutual Accountability (PMA) for what we promised to deliver in support of the SCP plus capacity building for the Ministry, decentralized Local Government structures, former organizations, private sector institutions and civil society.
The total cost of the SCP is about 403 million US Dollars.
7. In addition to the above programme, the Government adopted 'An Incentive Package for Private Sector Investment in the Agricultural Sector of Sierra Leone' that gives opportunities for:
- Import duty for a period of 3 to 5 years depending on the scope and type of investment;
- Tax Holidays for a period of 3 to 5 years depending on the scope and type of investment
- Government to serve as middleman in land acquisition: That is, Government would lease the land from many family landowners and sub-lease it to the investor thereby relieving the latter of the multifarious encumbrances of dealing with many landowners with potentially different conditions of lease.
8. The incentives have attracted large-scale investments in the agricultural sector of Sierra Leone. Addax a bio-energy, a foreign investment, is promoting sugar cane with over 400 million Euros to produce ethanol and electricity that will contribute to the national grid. Gold Tree, another foreign company, is investing about 20 million US Dollars in large-scale oil palm plantations.
9. The country has huge potential for foreign direct investments (FDIs): The weather is very favourable: over six months of rainfall of about 4,000 mm a year, nine never dry rivers country-wide and good period of much sunshine. Unfortunately, in spite of the irrigation potential in the country, Sierra Leone has virtually zero level of irrigation. According to our estimates, irrigating five (5) out of fourteen (14) identified irrigable areas constituting 143,700 hectares can produce surplus rice of about 20% if cultivated at least twice a year and at a yield of 3 tones per hectare. I know that Egypt, for example, has a yield record for rice of 12 tones per hectare. Also, only less than 12% of the arable land is cultivated every year. This means that there is a lot of arable land available in the country.
10. The challenges facing the country include: resource mobilization in support of agriculture and food security, capacity building of Government, the private sector, civil society and the farmers to manage the sector and irrigation (which is currently virtually 0%. Another challenge is how to manage the food security triangle of food supply, access both physical and economic or purchasing power) and utilization. In addition and very crucial is changing the attitude of the farmers to undertake agriculture as a business; not just a livelihood!
11. In all of these, a committed and visionary political leadership is very crucial! In Sierra Leone for that matter, the President firstly declared agriculture as the topmost priority of the Government. He supported his words with action by increasing the budgetary allocation to agriculture from an inherited paltry of 1.6% to 7.7% in 2009 and now equals to or is over 10%; thus fulfilling the Maputo Declaration which requires African Governments to allocate a minimum of 10% of their budgets to agriculture. Besides, he established the Presidential Task Force on Agriculture under his chairmanship that is attended by the Vice President, the relevant supporting Ministers that signed the CAADP Compact in 2009, the donors, the private sector, civil society and the farmers. He also ensured that Sierra Leone undertook the CAADP process after five years of the Maputo Declaration!
12. As Sierra Leone attends this Meeting, we look forward to OIC support for our Agriculture and Food Security Programme contained in the two (2) proposals that the country has submitted to the OIC:
- The Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP) worth US$ 404 million
- The National Irrigation Development Strategy (NDS) valued at US$ 178 million.
We also look forward to a speedy establishment of a system for coordinating and managing OIC support to member states so that Sierra Leone's proposals could be quickly attended to. In that regard, I wish to suggest that two things be done;
- Set up an institutional management system for proposal processing, resource allocation, supervision, information sharing, capacity building, etc;
- Establish a funding mechanism to pool resources in support of member states.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.