By Gabriel Benjamin
Prosperity that is sustainable should not just provide a temporary solution to needs and yearnings, but should be long-lasting and capable of eradicating poverty and related problems. And agriculture, which offers jobs to millions of Sierra Leoneans, has the capacity of achieving this, if properly handled.
Agriculture has been recognized as a fundamental instrument for sustainable development and a means for rapid rural prosperity, transformation, and by extension sustainably developing the country. Rural prosperity and transformation is therefore sine qua non to national development, which can be best and most rapidly achieved through development of agricultural practices.
Agriculture can, therefore, be the bedrock of economic and rural development in Sierra Leone, since agriculture is closely tied to the development process of a country and a key component in the President Ernest Bai Koroma ‘Agenda for Prosperity’. Thus with proper planning and execution, there are tremendous opportunities in agriculture for enhanced and sustainable production, environmental protection and income enhancement leading to comprehensive food securities and overall prosperity for Sierra Leoneans.
For the country to turn agriculture to its bedrock there is need for managerial, technological and organizational innovations that will make both production and productivity increase substantially.
The main priorities should be to promote sustainable agriculture, to optimize food production, boost incomes of farmers and maintain vibrant rural economies and thus contribute more significantly to the nation’s Gross domestic Product (GDP).
There is also the need for massive investment of the earnings accruing from the mining sector into agriculture, which is an industry of all times.
To make agriculture the bedrock for sustainable ‘Agenda for Prosperity’, agricultural production should be diversified, productivity increased, processing improved, storage upgraded, distribution streamlined and marketing broadened.
Agriculture must be made attractive for fresh graduates from colleges, and the right and enabling environment must be created for it to thrive by making access to land, inputs and finance easier.
There is also the need to devise policies that will ease investment and give impetus to agriculture and food production in the country. There is need to invest more in storage and preservation facilities, promote small scale agro-industrial projects and accelerate processing of agricultural raw materials to add value and better marketability.
The solution to transforming the living conditions of the rural poor lies in increasing the agricultural production and productivity of the small-holder farmers and involving them as active players along the agricultural commodity value chain, thereby creating employment.
To improve the country’s economy significantly, sustainably, and reduce food insecurity, Sierra Leone like any other nation of the world, must focus on agriculture and see it as a big viable business rather than a way of life for the rural poor farmers who form the majority of the country’s population.
To sum up, there is need for agriculturists in the country to grow intellectually and operationally with special focus on agriculture, technological research and dissemination to a better understanding of both the urban and rural societies and their imminent needs.