Guinean traders exploit farmers in Port Loko


February 4, 2019

By Joseph S. Margai

Port Loko D.A.O, Charles Bangura

District Agriculture Officer (D.A.O) of Port Loko, north-western region of Sierra Leone, Charles Bangura, has told concord times that farmers in the district were not realising much from their proceeds because traders from Guinea were in the habit of issuing out to them bad loans in return for rice and other agricultural produces.

Charles Bangura, who raised that the said concern in an interview with this medium at his Port Loko office on Wednesday, 30th January, 2019, said the traders do go into the villages where they offer clothing, shoes, bracelets, necklaces, jerry cans of cooking oil in the form of loan to farmers,  in return for their agricultural produces.

He said in most cases, farmers easily fall for the trick, hence their produces were taken away by the traders during harvest season, thus rendering them food insufficient.

“The farmers are growing rice and other foodstuff that should be sufficient to feed a large percentage of the Sierra Leonean population. But those produces are not seen in the country because they are taken to neighbouring Guinea,” he explained.

He narrated that last year, some drums and jerry cans of palm oil were confiscated when some traders from Guinea were trying to smuggle them out of Sierra Leone.

“Port Loko is the hub for rice production in Sierra Leone and within the district, Lokomasama and Kamasondo chiefdoms are the hub for rice production. The main challenge is to create an opportunity for farmers to access loans so as to enable them cultivate lot of rice,” he said, while stressing that because of the inaccessibility of loans from financial institutions, farmers were being cheated the Guinean traders.

Beside the challenge of tackling bad loans from Guinean traders, Charles Bangura also said financial institutions especially the Financial Services Associations (FSAs) and community banks preferred giving out loans to traders and teachers instead of farmers.

“The financial institutions believe that the traders could sell today and repay their loans tomorrow. Teachers can as well repay at the end of every month.
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But as for the farmers, if they encounter problems on the farm, or have poor harvest, they would delay to repay loans,” he said, while calling on the central government to tackle that challenge.

He also cited prolong drought, flooding as some of the factors that affect farming in the district.

The Port Loko D.A.O said due to the pledge that the Ministry of Agriculture has made to supporting the school feeding programme, they  recently embarked on recovering rice which they issued out to farmers in the form of loan last season.

“This is the period that many farmers are harvesting and threshing rice. So, we have engaged our Block Extension Supervisors (BES) to recover the rice. Already, we have provided enough fuel for them to go in search of those farmers who have to give rice to the ministry,” he said.

According to him, they have received good news that farmers were willing to repay the loan but demanded empty sacks to place it, noting that they have made a request to the Port Loko District Council to procure them empty bags.