From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Local News
In Sierra Leone, As Agric Min Concludes District Launchings… ‘Farm For Bizness’ Gathers Steam
By Samuel Serry Jr.
Sep 1, 2010, 17:14

Sierra Leone’s district headquarter towns were agog with activity last week when the Minister, Deputy Minister-2 and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security entered the districts to simultaneously carry out well coordinated official launchings of the country’s new five year flagship programme on agriculture – the Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP), dubbed ‘Farm for Bizness.’


The exercise which among other things sought to raise awareness among Sierra Leonean farmers succeeded in igniting positive reactions and a sense of ownership from rural folks who appeared quite inclined to move from the rather non-profitable subsistence system of farming to commercialized farming where they could raise their income levels and contribute to the general growth of the economy.

Cabinet Farmers at the Kenema Launch: Even these Ministers are now Master Farmers in their own right


Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay who led the team that visited the four districts of the Southern Region was quick to remind farmers about President Ernest Bai Koroma’s Agenda for Change (the PRSP- 2) in which agriculture enjoys topmost priority


To this end, he believed that a country lacking the capacity to feed itself shall remain poor and called on all and sundry to embrace the SCP which he described as the antidote that would relieve Sierra Leone from decades of socio-economic malaise.

Deputy Minister-2 of Agriculture, Lovell Thomas addressing farmers in Bombali


In the Northern Region, Deputy Minister of Agriculture -2, Lovell Thomas led another team to Kambia, Bombali, Koinadugu  Tonkolili and Port Loko Districts where he outlined the achievements of President Koroma in the agriculture sector and other priority areas in the Agenda for Change, informing farmers about funding provided for the SCP by the country’s development partners.


In each of the districts, farmers reminisced the good old days upon learning that the European Union has provided $16M to promote cash crops like cashew, cocoa, coffee and ginger and a $15M funding from the Islamic Development Bank to develop the Mattru Jong Oil Palm Plantation in the Bonthe District.

Some of the power tillers working in the Inland Valley Swamps of Sierra Leone.

 

In Bombali District, the crowd went wild when Lovell Thomas announced a staggering $50M funding to be made available in 2011 by the Global Agriculture Food Security Programme


(GASFP) – a G-8 initiative aimed at reducing hunger and poverty among developing countries.


A $28M funding, he said has already been dished out by donors like Irish Aid, IFAD, WFP, FAO, the Italian Programme for Food Security and the EU, adding that the said amount was being utilized by the SCP for 2010.


The SCP’s National Coordinator, Prince Kamara enthused farmers with the revelation that, in accordance with component -one of the six components in the SCP, Agricultural Business Centers were being constructed in every chiefdom across the country to provide farmers earlier grouped into Farmer Based Organizations (FBOS) the venues and opportunity to process, package and market their produce.


“These centers will be equipped with rice mills, threshers, cold rooms, stores, offices, drying floors, telephone lines and all that  farmers need to add value to their produce…This is what we call the agricultural value chain” he reiterated amidst cheers from a vividly elated crowd of farmers and community people.


Prince Kamara further revealed that agricultural inputs like fertilizers, seedlings, power tillers, tractors etc, have been acquired for use by the FBOs who have been trained in what he referred to as Farmer Fields Schools, initially set up to train farmers in various farming techniques and soil preservation methods and business  management. 

 

At the moment, Prince Kamara said a total of 150 ABCs were being constructed to serve 390 FBOs, adding that within the five year period of the project’s life, 650 ABCs would have been constructed to serve some 2,750 FBO’s nationwide.


The other five components, according to the SCP National Coordinator include; Irrigation, feeder road construction, farmer’s access to financial services, social protection in the form of food security and safety nets and Coordination.


In the Eastern Region District of Kailahun, the Director General of Agriculture, Francis Sankoh encouraged farmers to adopt a positive attitude towards farming and advised potential saboteurs to reconsider the implications of their actions on the national economy whose survival squarely hinges on agricultural productivity.

 

He believed that young people have a role to play in ensuring the success of the programme and called on them to start organizing themselves into FBO’s for due consideration by the SCP.


Farmers and community stakeholders in the district visited lauded the ‘Farm for Bizness’ initiative and expressed gratitude to government and its development partners.


They however expressed hope that agricultural inputs like rice seedlings are delivered on time to enable them adjust their farming activities with changing weather patterns.


The farmers also appealed for combined harvesters to handle the increasing yields in rice cultivation and mechanisms that would enable them gain quick access to the markets.


Some farmer boasted of having hundreds of bushels of husk rice in their warehouses but lamented over the non availability of viable markets to sell their produce.


“We are therefore asking the government to think of establishing institutions like the defunct Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board (SLPMB) to buy our produce” remarked a Paramount Chief in the Kailahun Distrcit.



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