By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Theresa T. Dick, has re-echoed the ministry’s commitment to implementing the government big five agenda to ensure there is sufficient food to feed the nation.
She was speaking at the 2024 budget hearing conducted by the Ministry of Finance.
She called on the Finance Ministry to pay kin attention to some of the challenges the Ministry of Agriculture had been facing, including the late disbursement of funds.
She said timely disbursement of budget is very necessary, in that should they want to succeed they need to go to early work and preparations.
The ministry is asking for the sum of NLe97,860,200,with NLe29,979,200 for the office of the Permanent Secretary, NLe19,187,100 for the crops division, NLe5,876,400 for livestock division, NLe5,318,700 for the agricultural engineering division, NLe7,602,800 for the Planning, evaluation, monitoring division, NLe8,847,600 for the agricultural extension services division, NLe17,087,700 for the office of the Chief Agriculture Officer and NLe3,960,700 to the support to seed multiplication program, respectively.
Doing the budget presentation on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture,Senior Permanent Secretary, Andrew L. Sorie, said the mandate of the ministry is to stimulate, support sustainable and diversify production of food and ensuring food sufficiency, gainful employment and preserving the environment.
He said their mission to develop, implement and adopt appropriate policies, programs and institutional management systems towards enhancing agricultural development through commercialisation and private sector promotion.
Their vision, he said, is to make agriculture the engine of socio-economic growth and development towards achieving food security, employment opportunities and poverty reduction.
He noted that boosting the Feed Salone flagship programme, agriculture productivity will fuel inclusive growth, increase local food production and reduce dependence on food import, reduce hunger, increase export earnings, create jobs, and build resilience.
He presented that their strategic objectives is to import substitution of key staple food, adding that Sierra Leone should grow enough to feed itself in the immediate term.
He disclosed that the country imports annually over $500 million of various food items and that the key objective of the Feed Salone programme is to gradually reduce such amount in the next five years.
He said they will increase local production in key value chains such as rice, poultry products (eggs and chicken), onions, vegetable oils, and dairy products, to reduce their importation.
He said they would boost export earnings from agriculture and that agriculture must be a source of significant foreign exchange generation.
He disclosed that the sector contributes 57.5% to the GDP in 2022 and that the total GDP at Market Price in 2022 was SLL48, 909,104 with the agriculture sector contributing SLL 28,100,880.
He said in the next five years, they will boost export earnings from agriculture through enhanced productivity in key cash crops such as cacao, coffee, palm oil and cashew food exports.
He said they wanted to reduce hunger and malnutrition because according to the World Food Programme (WFP), Sierra Leone continues to have unacceptably high rate of food insecurity and malnutrition.
He said over one million people are considered chronically hungry and the local food system must be part of the solution to reducing chronic hunger and malnutrition, especially in rural communities.
He said they will strengthen the link between food production, nutrition, and health and value chains.
He said the Feed Salone Program will help to address access to finance challenges for both smallholders and large-scale farmers and that it also aims to de-risk private sector investment in the agriculture sector and will encompass insurance schemes to protect farmers against weather shocks, credit facilities designed to fit the production cycles, minimum price guarantee schemes and matching grants for farmers that want to expand production.