January 19, 2017 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara
The Executive Secretary for Sierra Leone Chambers for Agribusiness Development (SLeCAD), Ahmed Nanoh, on Tuesday disclosed that the sector has trained over 3500 small holder farmers across the country.
Speaking at a press conference held at their Bathurst Street office, Nanoh said through the help of their development partners like the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the sector has capacitated those local farmers with entrepreneurship and business development skills.
“Since the establishment of this sector, we have been able to train over 3500 small holder farmers across the country to help in the production of our local foods. Though their sustenance is a challenge but we give accolade to Agribusiness Private Sector for their timely intervention,” he said.
The Executive Secretary stated that they championed the establishment of the innovation fund for agricultural transformation because farmers were apprehensive about lack of access to finance, which will enhance large scale production.
The ceremony, which brought together stakeholders in the agriculture business sector, Board members of SLeCAD, was aimed at popularising the second Annual General Meeting (AGM) scheduled to take place at the Kingtom Bank Complex on Friday, January 20, 2017, where it is expected to highlight the successes and challenges of the sector.
Nanoh noted that there were lots of challenges facing the sector as a result of the Ebola scourge the country experienced one year ago.
“Up till now the country is still importing huge amount of rice, onions, vegetable cooking oil and other commodities. But we cannot continue like that. So we are going to use the AGM as a medium to sensitise our members, review our programmes, know where we have gone wrong, what we need to improve on and to review the board,” he said.
On his part, Chairman of Pujehun District Council, SadiqueSillah, said SLeCAD was not a parallel authority to the Ministry of Agriculture but a baby to the ministry like a child trying to improve on the image of the family.
He said they were very grateful to the former minister of Agriculture, Dr. Sam Sesay, who is now an adviser to President Koroma, for putting ideas together that saw the formation of SLeCAD.
He said they were working closely with the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources, since they were competing for the same land.
“So the Ministry of Mines is an integral part of this office. We must work with them to ensure that all mining (especially those connected to alluvia mining) to transform those areas into a productive use for agricultural purposes, “he said.
He re-echoed that the AGM will be used to rebrand, restructure, and to re-organize themselves because there were challenges that they have been identified that they would proffer possible solutions to.
He said the biggest problem in agriculture was the land tenure system and that most times landowners were recalcitrant to giving their lands to multinational organisations for large scale farming, which he said would improve food security in the country.