Farmers Federation laments funding gaps


July 25, 2018

By Elizabeth A. Kaine

Brima Babo: ‘laments dearth of finance to local farmers

National Coordinator and Policy Analyst of the National Farmers Federation-Sierra Leone (NaFFSL), Brima Babo, has in an exclusive interview with Concord Times lamented that local farmers cannot get bumper harvest for national consumption because of funding gaps.

According to Babo, local farmers in the country need capital to enable them cultivate their crops on time and in large quantity, adding that late cropping results to myriad problems, including low harvest.

He called on government to support local farmers, noting that challenges of local food production should be addressed by Sierra Leoneans and not foreigners.

He revealed that hitherto a bank used to provide loans to local farmers, and that for the past few years they have not been able to access loans from any other bank.

He said they only depend on the little money or crops they have, which only feed their families.

“Our local rice is more nutritional than all those imported ones. The government should invest in our own local foodstuffs rather than depending on other countries,” he appealed.

Babo noted that rice is significant to Sierra Leone, being both a staple food and rural likelihood issue, adding that it constitutes the single largest component of household food spending, representing nearly twenty percent of total spending.

He said home production of rice plays significant role for rural households as approximately eighty-five percent of rice consumed by households is purchased in the market.

The farmers association prexy cited a certain World Bank report which stated that majority of households that consume home-produced rice do not produce enough to meet their needs at some point during the year, with the most acute shortages occurring in the pre-harvest period.

He said that data from the United States Department of Agriculture reveal that approximately one-quarter of total rice consumption has been imported into the country since 1990, though there is substantial variation between years.

He emphasised that lack of finance is one of the major challenges responsible for the low production of local rice, thus calling on government to prioritise farming in the country.

He averred that people have abandoned farming over the years because they do not access much needed support from government and the private sector.

Maxwell Samoh, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of NaFFSL, also expressed similar concerns, adding that there is lack of support for local famers at the moment.

He noted that farming is done yearly and that farmers don’t normally meet loan conditions of paying within weeks or months, adding the stringent conditions make it difficult for them to access loans.

“If government wants farmers to cultivate and make good harvest, a loan account should be created for local famers that can farm a large quantity,” he said.

NaFFSL is the umbrella organisation of farmers, with a mandate of lobbying and advocating for, as well as organising smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone.