February 5, 2019
By Joseph S. Margai
The Kambia District Agriculture Officer (D.A.O), Saidu Bamayange, has expressed determination to tackle all existing ‘loopholes’ in the district agricultural sector so as to maximise productivity.
Bamayange, who was speaking at his Kambia office last Thursday (31st January, 2019),told Concord Times that he inherited a very ‘rotten’ system, which, he said led to the non-actualisation of government’s input in boosting productivity.
“There used to be lots of political interferences in the agriculture sector here in Kambia. Because of the political connection, one farmer could get 500 bags of fertiliser, thereby depriving the others who might not have connections. But when it was time to repay the fertiliser to the office, none of them would show up,” he expressed.
He also disclosed that the price for a 50 kilograms of fertilizer in the market was two hundred and fifty thousand Leones (Le250,000), but that the Mnistry of Agriculture was issuing it out to farmers at a subsidised rate of one hundred and twenty thousand Leones (Le120,000).
“It is on cost recovery basis. The ministry gives it out to the farmers and they in turn repay with two bushels of rice, equivalent to the One Hundred and Twenty Thousand Leones,” he said.
He said there were situations where a single farmer could harvest too many bushels of rice, with the ministry benefiting nothing at the of the day due to political interference.
“I met some documents showing that a single farmer could come to the office and claim to have belonged to four farming groups, of which one consists of 25 members. That farmer would request for fertilizer and bushels of rice in the name of those farming groups, and when he or she receives them, he/she would never repay,” he stated.
He noted that the government, under the “New Direction” administration, wanted to ensure that all agricultural inputs reach the beneficiaries, so as to maximise productivity and profit for farmers.
The Kambia D.A.O. said they were supposed to recover 17,000 bushels of rice for the entire Kambia district, but that they have only recovered 180 bushels of rice, thus charging that every farmer that owes the government must repay so that the ministry would issue it out to other farmers for the next planting season.
“Before I took up office, some farmers, who had political influence, would just sit down in their villages and give mobile phone calls to the office that they have recovered the loaned rice in their stores instead of bringing it to the office,” he said, and added that this time around, there is not going to business as usual.
“I must see the rice to ascertain whether it is available before a particular farmer’s name is deleted from the debtors’ book.”