By Emmanuel Gborie
Members of the technical committee at the meeting
Technical Project Advisory Committee comprising the European Union (EU) International Labour Organization(ILO) and the Government of Sierra Leone, on May 30, held it second meeting on the theme: “ Opportunity Salone Programme.”
The Opportunity Salone Project was launched in November, 2021, at the Radisson Blue, Mamiyoko Hotel, Aberdeen in Freetown.
The meeting convened by the project advisory committee was organized to discuss the activities ILO has implemented so far under the inception stage of the project and also what the next step would be as proposed.
Opportunity Salone is a project financed by the EU as part of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF). The project aims at contributing to large scale job creation and job quality improvement for women, youth and persons with disabilities, mainly in the rural area of Sierra Leone through inclusive value chain production focused on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and cooperatives and feeder road maintenance to improve access to market. Opportunity Salone adopts a market system in its implementation approach.
Opportunity Salone is envisaged to contribute to value chain and entrepreneurship development, creating between 2,000 and 4,000 jobs in the short run to maintain up to200km of rural feeder roads as well as longer-term, sustainability job quality improvement in strengthened and inclusive agricultural value chains.
Vanessa Phala, Country Director of ILO Office for Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone, in her welcome address, acknowledged the presence of the EU Head of Development Cooperation in Sierra Leone.
She further acknowledged the representative of the Ministry of Labour together with the representative of the Ministry of Agriculture. She went on by thanking the members of the Project Advisory Committee on behalf of the ILO Director General, Mr. Dier Renner for their commitment in working with the ILO and Government of Sierra Leone in implementing that very big important integration for Sierra Leone- Opportunity Salone.
She also thanked the media houses that were present at the meeting and stated how a lot of noise was made about the project when it was launched in November.
She expressed hope that the media will continue to make that noise louder and sound the alarm throughout the country, especially in the districts where the programme will be implemented and create a greater level of awareness, not for just sharing information but for also accountability. She said it was important also to take stock of the achievement of the project and that the ILO was committed to making sure that they keep the people of Sierra Leone informed about the project.
As Technical Advisory Committee, she continued that, they have quite clear objectives for the meeting as that was the inaugural and first meeting the committee was holding on the project:
She said they wanted to, as a committee look at the “Terms of References” and make sure they were all on the same page in terms of what they would be expecting in their contribution to the project and also get the “Bill of Progress” in terms of the work they have done so far since November last year.
She said they have managed to equip their office with their Human Resources and do have a Chief Technical Adviser who was on the ground, and that they were trying to recruit a good number of their team to make sure that they have a full fledge staff to help them deliver on the project.
She said they’ve been able to implement quite critical evidence based intervention, conducted a repute market assessment where thy will be able to identify the key sector they would focus on including cocoa, palm oil, cassava and vegetables.
She said they’ve also done Market System analyses where they’ve identified three constraints in the agricultural sector and also understanding the needs in the requirement from the feeder roads maintenance aspect of it, adding that they have done that jointly and collaboratively with the relevant people on the ground.
The SLRA, she said has been a huge partner in the identification of the roads that will form part of the maintenance component including other social partners with whom they’ve been working side by side. Part of the meeting also was the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between ILO and SMEDA as an important implementing partner of the project.
She called on all to ensure the implementation of the project reaches beneficiaries, leaving no one behind especially those who are the key beneficiaries that have already been identified, including young people, women and people with disabilities.
One of the key interventions she said they asked of the UN agencies was to create a synergy with structures on the ground to have the kind of impact they wanted, hence they’ve engaged with district heads and persons in the districts in which they operate to be on the same page and not leave anybody behind.
She said in the implementation of the project another important aspect is Knowledge management to have a key resource; looking MME, collecting data, collecting best practices and collating lessons learnt in order to inform next intervention and have opportunity for expansion to other districts.
The EU Head of Development Cooperation, Gerald Hatper, in his address, started by saying that the EU believes in the development of Sierra Leone, therefore they have a targeted budget of 65m Euros and that part of which was to go towards the maintenance of feeder roads as a one component.
He said Euro 8million of the money was segmented for Opportunity Salone, another component under the EUs multi- annual financial perspective aid to development amongst others (Education). The project he said is a four years programme on what they are doing on feeder roads of 200km in rural areas of Sierra Leone, creating between 2000-4000 jobs here in Sierra Leone.
Minister of Labour , Alpha Osman Timbo, thanked the EU and the ILO for their support to the government of Sierra Leone.
He commended ILO for being behind the Ministry of Labour in its work to ensure success in what the Ministry was doing through technical support and trainings offered by the ILO and helping in creating employment for youth and women.
He said Agriculture is a key sector for development in Sierra Leone as it accounts for 60 percent of employment in Sierra Leone. He laid emphases on the strive to make the country’s laws fair for the employer and the employee in the employment environment as he acknowledges the fact that the laws have become obsolete, asking the EU for monitoring to be done together with the Ministry of Labour. He also called on the ILO and together with social partners to do regular faces of monitoring.