…says District Agriculture Officer
By Joseph S. Margai
District Agriculture Officer (DAO) of Port Loko district, Charles Alpha Bangura, has said farmers were not paying back loans they took from government through the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS).
He made the above disclosure during an interview with Concord Times in his office in Port Loko town, where he also said the loans MAFFS issued out to farmers were very flexible, but that they were reluctant to repay.
He said they issue out loans to enable farmers enhance their capacity in practising commercial agriculture, adding that the rate at which MAFFS recovers loans was very low
“We do not coerce farmers to pay their loans. Sometimes, even if the payment period is overdue, we still encourage them to pay afterwards, but some of them are still adamant to do so,” he said.
He said most farmers were claiming that they were not getting support from the ministry, noting that they were not working with individual, but group of farmers.
“We encourage them to form groups which are called farmer-based organizations (FBOs) and register with us. When there is an opportunity available for farmers, they will be seriously considered,” he said.
The MAFFS DAO said because farming goes with time, they usually sensitise farmers on the farming calendar and that those that adhere to the advice do realise better yield.
The District Agriculture Officer said cashew and oil palm were doing well in the district, thus calling on farmers to embark on cultivating the said tree crops.
He however highlighted some of the challenges his office faces in the district, including illiteracy rate among farmers, which he said, makes it difficult for them to accept innovations and land tenure system.
He noted that despite the numerous challenges, people of the district have been eating what they grow.
“We have been encouraging them to change their eating habit by not only depending on rice. If all the people eat only one crop, no matter how abundant it may be, there will be a shortage. They can also eat cassava, yam, and sweet potato to live,” he urged.