May 25, 2016 By Patrick Jaiah Kamara
Lawmakers yesterday ratified a forty million dollar (US$40m) loan agreement that will be used to transform the farming system from subsistence to commercialised.
The two interrelated agreements ratified were the financing agreement (Smallholder Commercialisation and Agric-business development project) between the government of Sierra Leone and International Development Association, and project agreement (Smallholder commercialisation and agric-business development project) between International Development Association and Apex Bank Limited.
The document was laid before the House on 14 March, 2016 and was ratified by the House with half of lawmakers absent.
The loan, according to the minister, would be paid within the period of 37 years, with a grace period of 6 years. The service charge payable by the government of Sierra Leone is ¾% of 1% and the payment rates are set from 15 March and 15 September every year.
Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Momodu Kargbo, told parliamentarians that the first agreement would focus essentially on promoting smallholder commercialisation that would have the lion share of US$36 million, while US$3.2 will go to Apex Bank for financing feeder roads construction and development.
“Part of the money will go to the technical assistance and value change services to build the capacity of farmers and other related chain actors. Some will also go as soft loans to eligible farmers by enhancing the capacity of rural financial institutions through the Apex Bank,” he said
The minister said some 50,000 smallholder famers would be affected by the project, with a minimum of 40% being women. He said ‘women, youths and children will be targeted to benefit from the project.
The loan will help build the capacity of personnel at the Agricultural Research Institute by providing resources for high level training for its staff, and the rehabilitation of road guidance and research activities.
Acting Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, Hon. Aaron Aruna Koroma, representing constituency 062 in Port Loko district, said agriculture plays an important role in the economy of every country and contributes about 30% to the Gross Domestic Product of Sierra Leone.
He urged the Ministry of Agriculture to include parliamentarians in the implementation of the project, adding that 70 percent of their constituents are engage in agricultural activities.
Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo of constituency 30, expressed concern about monitoring the project to ensure that it benefits targeted beneficiaries.
He also urged that the Environmental Protection Agency should ensure that they use the environment wisely to avoid future disaster as the county is often rank the worst in terms of environmental hazard .
Prof. Monty Jones, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, told Concord Times at the parliamentary lounge that the loan would help add value to agricultural products and that farmers would no longer have headache to sell their products. He said the country would soon start to export both food and cash crops.
He said the project would be implemented across the country and that seven ministries would be involved in the implementation.