April 13, 2015 By Ibrahim Jaffa Condeh and Alusine Sesay
The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), in collaboration with African Development Fund and the Government of Sierra Leone, has officially launched the Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crop (Cassava) SARD-SC in the three regions of North, South and East of Sierra Leone.
The platform was followed by training of cassava farmers in the areas of production and processing and it attracted a cross-section of cassava farmers in the three regions that were visited.
While speaking in Bo city, Country Director of IITA, Jim Abaka Whyte, noted that the cultivation of cassava is of immense priority in the district, adding that individual participation in the practice is of much importance as it would help achieve the desired goals in cassava farming across the country.
He said IITA and the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI) have undertaken several researches on cassava and other subsector development in Sierra Leone, and have succeeded in bringing out facts that would benefit a lot of farmers across the country.
He underscored the importance of value chain in processing of cassava and stressed that value chain is of immense importance to every household in the country, and that the Sewa Platform in the Southern Region will be the umbrella for all farmers and processers to adding value to cassava, adding that the training was very much important for participants to understand the scope of production and processing.
Mr. Whyte noted that there is low market availability for cassava in Sierra Leone and that such affects productivity, profitability and technology which will in turn scale down cost of production.
“Agriculture has greatly impacted households in Sierra Leone through the provision of income, food security and the contribution to national economy. The National Sustainable Agriculture Development Plan (NSADP) and the farmers do face challenges of livelihood due to instability, productivity constraints, marketing difficulties, insecure social and power relations and the discrimination polices that erode their productivity of cassava,” Whyte said.
He observed that cassava products are not only important for food, but also handy for animal feed, adding that cassava starch is the best source of flour the world relies on.
He further noted that IITA operates on multi-disciplinary, inter-institutional, national, regional and international levels.
Chairman of the event, who doubles as National Coordinator for IITA SARD, Dr. Ibrahim Shamie, said the meeting was to commission the Sewa Platform that is based in the Southern Province and that farmers from Pujehun, Moyamba, Bonthe and in the Bo districts who constitute the Sewa Platform would benefit a lot as it is an initiative for cassava farmers to advance their production and processing skills.
A senior staff of the IITA, Sylvanus Fannah, disclosed that the institution has a total number of twenty-one cassava factories with eight groups under the Sewa Implementation Platform. He said they are proud to have implemented the project which he said has benefited cassava farmers in the country.
District Agricultural Officer for Bo District, Joseph S. Kabileh Bangura, said that cassava farmers of the Sewa Platform have benefited a lot from initiatives by IITA aimed at success in productivity and processing.
He disclosed that farmers are faced with a lot of challenges ranging from income generation to household level poverty, among others.
One of the participants, Amadou Alami-Bangura, said the programme was timely, educative and very successful as it has helped farmers in the cultivation of cassava varieties, ranging from Slica 1 to 6.