July 23, 2018
By Yusufu S. Bangura
Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, last Thursday launched the private sector mobilisation initiative to transform rice production in Sierra Leone, themed ‘beyond boundaries: mobilising the private sector to invest in rice production, processing and marketing in Sierra Leone’.
Speaking during the ceremony, Dr. Jalloh said their government came into office when the country was rated as the third hungriest nation in the world, adding that past government spent millions of dollars yearly to import the country’s staple food, rice.
He noted that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security has engaged government to prioritise local rice production, adding that the choice of rice was justifiable by the fact that after fifty years of independence, Sierra Leone is still not sufficiently fed with rice.
He added that government had spent over 400 million United States Dollars on rice production, hence they now seek to encourage private sector support to producing rice for the country.
Vice President Juldeh said their aim was to make concrete commitment toward mechanised agriculture, as that was the pronouncement in the New Direction manifesto.
He reiterated that their commitment would focus on addressing production, processing and marketing of rice, and making agriculture attractive to the private sector and all Sierra Leoneans.
‘’I want the private sector to make a commitment to improve rice value chain. I will drive private sector to invest in agriculture and investment in machineries for mechanised agriculture and provision of loans for farmers and farming groups,’’ he stated.
Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Joseph Ndanema, noted that the achievement of the President’s vision could be realised on sustainable basis once it fosters partnership with the private sector.
Ndanema noted that the private sector has resources to involve directly in the rice value chain processes, and that they could improve access to finance to small and medium scale farmers, including youth and women, to participate meaningfully in a chain of rice production.
“I am committed to pursue the President’s agenda towards rice self-sufficiency and reducing foreign exchange expenditure on rice importation in Sierra Leone. I also want the government to reiterate commitment in providing the conducive and enabling environment for all agricultural activities, mobilise the private sector to invest in rice production and popularise among partners an overview of MAFS’s priority interventions in the next five years,’’ he stated.
Minister Ndanema said there are 4.2 million hectres of arable land in the provinces suitable for rice production, adding that Sierra Leone would not only be a rice sufficient nation in the next five to seven years, but also a nation that will export rice.
He said that their aim was to intensify local rice production to overcome the perennial huge investment in the importation in Sierra Leone.
The minister further stated that the conference would set the stage for Sierra Leone to be known for rice production and no long blood diamond.
Chief Minister, Professor David Francis, said the president has made human capital development and food security the centre of the New Direction agenda.
He noted that getting rice right was his business and that government would build the human capital of men, women, youth and children required to access food, adding that a country would not develop if it cannot feed itself.
He further said government was determined to make Sierra Leoneans grow more rice to feed themselves.