February 19, 2015 By Alusine Sesay & Ibrahim Jaffa Condeh
The Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP), which was launched by President Ernest Bai Koroma to help the rural poor increase their food security and incomes on a sustainable basis for long term economic development, came to an end in December 2014.
According to the Deputy Chief Agriculture Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Sheku Tejan Kamara, the SCP programme lasted for five years and will be succeeded by the Inclusive Comprehensive Agriculture Development Programme (ICAADP).
Kamara said the new programme would ensure total inclusiveness of agricultural programmes, including fish farming, as well as involve inter-ministerial projects in which the Ministries of Trade, Agriculture and Fisheries would work together to ensure the implementation of a holistic value chain of agricultural produce in the country.
He said the programme should have commenced in 2014 but has been deferred to 2016 due to the Ebola outbreak, adding that the ministry is now reviewing to see where they went wrong in the implementation of the SCP.
The government of Sierra Leone invested an estimated US$403m on the SCP within a five-year period and it aimed at helping over 70% of the country’s population out of poverty and in the process boosts the economy to put Sierra Leone on the right path of achieving its Millennium Development Goals.
The SCP was adopted by the government of Sierra Leone after the establishment in 2003 of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP).
The SCP had six thematic areas including commercialization, which encompassed capacity building of 1000 Farmer-based Organizations (FBOs) in value addition, processing and marketing through the construction, equipping and operationalisation of Agricultural Business Centres (ABCs) – development of private Agro-dealer services to farmers
The programme was supposed to rehabilitate 4000 hectares of Inland Valley Swamps (IVS) through small scale irrigation, increase access to financial services through the establishment of 15 profitable and sustainable Financial Services Associations referred to as Village Banks and 7 Community Banks, and coordination and management to ensure effective strategic and operational planning, coordination of the SCP components, donors and implementing partners among others.
Speaking to Concord Times’ ‘Focus on Agriculture’, the Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer said under the SCP the ministry constructed 5,000 kilometers of feeder roads, rehabilitated 5,000 inland valley swamp, constructed 392 Agricultural Business Centres, established 51 Financial Service Associations (FSAs) and 17 village banks to enhance farmers’ accessibility to finance.