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Agric Minister and partners embark on rapid assessment

SEPTEMBER 17, 2014 By Keifa M. Jaward, FAO Communication Consultant

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security and key partners in the Food Security and Livelihood Sector – FAO, WFP, UN Women, ADB, WHH et al – are undertaking a rapid assessment on the impact of Ebola on agriculture and food security.

According to FAO Country Representative, Dr. Gabriel Rugalema, the survey will attempt to identify vulnerabilities of the Ebola Virus Disease on rural and urban communities in Sierra Leone, and also assess the value chain of key commodities and its impact on the local and national functioning of the markets.

Dr. Rugalema stated that the activity is within the framework of the national response plan of the Ebola Virus Disease, while the survey will validate and verify claims on the current thinking on Agriculture and Food Security.

He noted that the Virus Disease has had multiple negative impacts on agriculture, nutrition and food security in Sierra Leone, including the disruption of farming activities, trade for agricultural commodities, instability of prices of food and other necessities. “All these have been caused by restricted movements, quarantine and taking time to take care of the sick and; lack of access to nutritious food as a result of market closure,” he stated.

Head of Programme Implementation at FAO, David Mwesigwa, who is heading the national team in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS), said that the assessment will apply a national participatory multi-institutional approach, involving UN agencies, NGO membership in the Food Security Forum, Government, and private sector partners – WFP, UN Women, MAFFS, WHH, ACF, and Concern Worldwide, among others.

Mwesigwa explained that the joint partnership will facilitate access to farming communities through the existing agriculture infrastructure within the Ministry of Agriculture, especially the Agriculture Business Centers and Farmer Base Organizations.

He further indicated that vital information will be collected from over 650 heads of farming households as well as talking to key informants, including village heads, women opinion leaders, and officials of the district Emergency Operation Centres (EOC).

He added that a total of sixty local Markets will be surveyed at district, chiefdom and community levels.

Mwesigwa said that specific questions will be asked to producers and traders working along six key agricultural commodity value chains, including rice, cocoa, palm oil, vegetables, cassava and Livestock, to establish the disruptions and challenges faced since the last four months when the country experienced the Ebola outbreak.

The analysis is expected to be completed before the end of September and will provide direction for short and medium term programming of interventions in the affected communities in the country.  Similar assessments are also planned for Liberia and Guinea.

The assessment will be followed by a comprehensive food security assessment planned for early 2015.

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