March 17, 2017 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara
Participants at the Bintumani conference
The World Bank Country Manager, Parminder Brar, has disclosed to journalists that fifty thousand smallholder farmers are expected to benefit from a twelve million United States Dollars project through the Sierra Leone Agribusiness Development Fund (SLADF), being implemented by KPMG auditing firm.
Brar was speaking yesterday at the launch of the first call for concept note under SLADF, at the Bintumani conference hall, Aberdeen, Freetown.
He said there was huge potential for increasing agricultural production in the country, but noted that access to finance was a major challenge for most of the farmers in the country.
He said the country has water and plenty of rainfall and large scale of land for agricultural purposes, but stated that there was need to increase funding in the sector.
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He said in 2016, a public opinion company in Washington did a survey in which they interviewed more than four hundred people on what kind of project the World Bank would fund in the country, and that the respondents responded that food security was major.
He said a report published by the World Food Programme in October, last year, also highlighted food security as the major challenge in the country.
“That is why this project will address some of the issues associated with food security. The project will focus on value chain and priority would be given to those that would present concept notes on Oil Palm, Cocoa, Rice and Poultry. The $12 million project document is available at our website and the proposals would be accessed on two grounds: what is your experience in the past and how innovative is your proposal,” he said.
The World Bank chief said agriculture supports over 80% of the rural population in Sierra Leone, and that low levels of agricultural productivity renders the sector less competitive and depresses rural wages, discouraging employment among youth who are the most under-employed in the country.
Earlier, Vidal Decker, Managing Partner, KPMG Sierra Leone, noted that they were expecting to receive quality concept notes from potential agribusiness institutions that fulfill the fundamental expectations of the scheme.
“The application has to be competitive and we plan to have two competitions in a year. I there urge all those agribusinesses that would be unsuccessful this time around to be patient and try again during the next phase. The most important issue is the security bid if you don’t have it, you will not receive the fund. Let me thank the government of Sierra Leone and the World Bank for the confidence placed on us and we assure all other stakeholders that we shall do our very best to ensure the project success,” Decker said.
Giving an overview of the project, SLADF team leader, Kweku Fraser, said his institution was a component of the smallholder commercialisation and Agribusiness Development Project, charged with the responsibility of providing funding to private registered for-profit agribusinesses and off-taker companies in Sierra Leone.
He said for business companies to be eligible for SLADF funding, potential winner must be a privately-owned and controlled registered for-profit company, must have an existing relationship with a significant number of smallholder farmers and the project must be implemented in the country among other criteria.