May 6, 2019
By Jariatu S. Bangura
President Julius Maada Bio on Thursday during the State Opening of the Second Session of the Fifth Parliament has made commitment to increase 10% public spending in the agricultural sector in the next two years as recorded in the Maputo Declaration.
“My Government is still committed to increasing public spending to agriculture to 10% in the next 2 years in line with the Maputo Accord. I still strongly encourage prominent citizens, including political appointees, to engage in agriculture at whatever stage in the value chain,” he said.
It could be recalled that at the Second Ordinary Assembly of the African Union in July 2003 in Maputo, African Heads of State and Government endorsed the “Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa”
The Declaration contained several important decisions regarding agriculture, but prominent among them was the “commitment to the allocation of at least 10 percent of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development policy implementation within five years”.
To increase food crop production, President Bio said they will continue to improve the seed bank system to attract reliable private sector players; support the private sector for large scale agricultural food and cash crop production, processing, and marketing and to support local industries engaged in the fabrication of farm tools and the supply for other farming inputs
He said they will develop public and private partnership in tractor management, rehabilitate feeder roads linking farming communities to markets and facilitate the establishment of cash crop cooperatives and provide training in processing to ensure our cash crops become competitive for export.
“I am also pleased to report that the agriculture sector has attracted support from many development partners including the World Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Islamic Development Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and European Union. An estimate of about US$220 million has been mobilized from various partners for the development of the sector in the last 12 months and an additional amount of over US$45 million will be approved before the end of June 2019,” he said.
He also stated that there has been a rapid development in the agricultural sector and that a total of 3,800 hectares of oil palm is now planted all over the country, 2,000 hectares of cocoa plantations have been rehabilitated; 52 Agricultural Business Centers selected for transformation and 26 of them have received complete post-harvest and processing machines with start-up capital. An additional 25 Agricultural Business Centers have been constructed; 841 hectares of Inland Valley Swamps have been rehabilitated; 600 km of feeder roads have been rehabilitated; 59 small agribusinesses and 9 medium to large-scale businesses supported by Smallholder Commercialization and Agribusiness Development Project (SCADeP) are now fully functional.
President Bio noted that agricultural development will continue to be the center piece of his government’s drive towards economic diversification and poverty reduction, but that their focus will be to attain self-sufficiency in food production in the next 4 years, increase cash crop production and exports, create jobs, and provide income for the population.
He further stated that, “My administration has given concurrence for the hiring of 4,000 additional health workers of all critical cadres to address the challenge of human resource gap in the sector. Out of this, 1,500 were recruited before March and 2,500 will be hired before September 2019.”
“You would recall that the strategic objective of health in the New Direction is to transform the under-resourced, ill-equipped, dysfunctional and inadequate health infrastructure and healthcare delivery system to make it high quality, efficient, reliable, cost-effective, affordable, and sustainable,” he said.
He noted that under the health system strengthening Programme, supported by Global Fund, Ministry of Health and Sanitation will upscale 200 State Enrolled Community Health Nurses (SECHN) to State Registered Nurses (SRN) and 20 SRN to Nurse and Midwife Tutors.
“I have directed that all monies recovered by the Anti-Corruption Commission will be used as seed money to construct a National Diagnostic Centre which has recently been approved by Cabinet. Government is now mobilizing additional financing for constructing and equipping the center. In the coming years, we will scale up our efforts in health care development focusing particularly on health governance, health financing; human resource; free health care; disease prevention and control, and service delivery,” he said.
President Bio said during the past 12 months of his government, they have upgraded the Connaught hospital with the completion and opening of a new emergency triage, the construction of the Maternal and Children’s Hospital at Hangha Road Hospital, Kenema, and the completion of the Makali Community Health Centre (CHC) that is provided with ultramodern equipment and a solar mini- grid system.