By Ibrahim Kabba Turay
In bid to solve food security in Sierra Leone, the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in collaboration with the United Nations family and the Government of Sierra Leone, has launched the Agriculture Sector Donor Working Group (ASDWG).
The ASDWG is to ensure a platform for members to discuss about agriculture response in rural communities across the country, advocate for agriculture needs, and share technical guidelines to improve the quality and timeliness of agriculture responses and produce food security across the country.
The engagement was done on Tuesday, 26th September, at Mamba Point Hotel, Lagoonda Resort, Aberdeen in Freetown.
United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone, Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi, said the event marked a significant step forward in their collective efforts to support and strengthen the agriculture sector in the country in a more coherent and coordinated manner.
“It could not have been better timed as the country is now preparing its next Medium-Term National Development Plan and the stated goal of the government is that its flagship programme for the next 5 years will be the ‘Feed Salone Initiative,”he said
He said on the side of the UN country team, the sustainable development cooperation framework will be fully elaborated in the coming months.
“We know that Sierra Leone has the potential to be 100% food self-sufficient and to be a net exporter of food. Yet, since late 2020, Sierra Leone has seen an upward trend in the proportion of households that are food-insecure, and heavy reliance on food imports persists, thus, imperative that stakeholders in the agriculture-cum-food security sector work better together to get more returns from the efforts and resources being invested to support the country in revitalizing and transforming agriculture,” he said.
He continued that the establishment of the Agriculture Sector Donor Working Group is a testament to their commitment to fostering a coordinated approach to supporting Sierra Leone’s agriculture sector
“It is a clear recognition that no single entity or organization can address the complex challenges facing this sector in isolation. We must work together, align our efforts, and pool our resources to make a greater impact,” he called.
“As the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone, I am committed to supporting this initiative and working closely with all of you to achieve the objectives of the group. UN agencies have a wealth of expertise and experience in agriculture, food security, and rural development, and we are here to collaborate, share knowledge, and provide technical assistance to help Sierra Leone succeed.”
He concluded that the leadership of IFAD, the other Rome-based UN Agencies (FAO and WFP), the bilateral and multilateral donors, and development partners for investing time and resources to ensure that this much-needed entity is established.
He thanked the donors and development partners for their dedication to continue to invest in the agriculture sector and encouraged donor partners to create platform to build strong partnerships, and to deepen their understanding of the challenges and opportunities in the agriculture sector, and better collaborate to support the sector to become a driving force for sustainable development, shared prosperity, and food security in Sierra Leone.
IFAD Country Director & Chair of Agriculture Sector Donor Working Group, Pascaline Barankeba, thanked donor partners for the tremendous efforts they have been putting in the agricultural sector over the years.
She said agriculture stands as the cornerstone of Sierra Leone’s economy, which will employ over 70% of the national population.
She said the country will benefit from the ideal climatic conditions and that the ecology requires supporting various agricultural production activities.
She said approximately with 5.4 million hectares of arable land, Sierra Leone possesses a substantial resource based for agriculture development, thus, they were still going to ensure that they support the local farmers across the country in ensuring abundant food security.
She added that the national development plans emphasizes agriculture as the prime driver of inductive growth, and that it focuses on rice self-sufficiency,livestock, crop diversification, and sustainable forest management.
Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Dr. Henry Musa Kpaka, said he had had several meetings with President Bio’s on the ‘Feed Salone’ programme, which is the flagship programme of his government to ensure food security in the country
Minister Kpaka said Sierra Leone’s groundbreaking Feed Salone strategy, is a visionary five-year Presidential initiative poised to revolutionise agricultural productivity, safeguard food security and catalyse inclusive economic growth.
He said Feed Salone is not merely a programme; it’s a transformative force, a commitment to progress that is both ambitious and comprehensive.
“It stands as a testament to Sierra Leone’s unwavering dedication to leveraging its agricultural potential for the betterment of its people and the region as a whole,” he said.
He continued that the President is committed in feeding the people of Sierra Leone with the support of donor partners ensuring that he achieving that everybody in Sierra Leone is food sufficient.