December 14, 2018
By Alusine Sesay
The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS),Joseph Ndanema on November 30th,met with officials of the Sierra Leone Chamber on Agribusiness Development (SLeCAD) to chat the way forward on how to develop agriculture in the country.
In his opening remarks, Executive Secretary of SLeCAD,Ahmed Komba Nanoh, said the chamber was established to promote private investment in the agricultural sector by advocating for its members and also providing them access to finance.
He cited the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board (SLPMC) and ADDAX as members of the Chamber, thus commending the World Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), EU, GIZ, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, amongst others, for supporting the chamber over the years in diverse ways.
He further cited the establishment of districts offices and the opening of community banks like the Apex Banks, as some of the achievements of the chamber over the years.
During the meeting, members discussed issues including the lack of finance as a major factor hampering growth of agribusiness in the country, access to market, access to input and quality seeds, revival of the agriculture trade fair, policies, and access to land by farmers.
It was observed at the meeting that agriculture was still poor in Sierra Leone because the country imports food more than it should, hence the need to include various inputs with the key being human factor.
Officials of SLeCAD dilated on the need for stakeholders to work with the youth population so as to reduce unemployment in the country, thus also emphasising the need to acquire quality seeds to enhance quality product for the market.
Participants at the meeting further dilated on the trade fair, which they said would be a platform where different agricultural value chains would be displayed, and subsequently boost investment opportunities.
They dilated on the need for access to land, stating that without farmers having access to it for cultivation, there would be no way for them to produce as it is one of the major factors in agricultural development.
At the meeting,SLeCAD was advised to ensure that farmers produce quality product for a successful economic growth because without quality the product would not succeed, especially in the international market.
On his part, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Joseph Ndanema, noted that without finance, agriculture would not go on successfully, hence they would establish agricultural development bank that would be lending farmers on a single digit interest rate.
“This is because without farmers having access to finance, then the involvement of the private sector would not be paramount,” he said.
He observed that seed was a national security issue and that seed technology has to play a very important role in the development of agribusiness in the country.
“Those dealing in seeds must do a lot of research as there are lots to review. The members of SLeCAD must follow basic criteria for quality seeds as 7.5 tons and 9 tons per hectare of seeds would be sampled,” he urged.
While members observed that in most cases polices create some barriers to the development of agriculture in the country, it was resolved that SLeCAD should be involved in all policy formulations in the agriculture sector including the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).