By Yusufu S. Bangura
Project Coordinator for Torma Bum Rice Project at the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Abdulai Bu Wai, has stated that it will take couple of years for Sierra Leone to stop rice importation because the government does not have rice milling machine to process the rice they have harvested.
He made the above statement during an interview at the popular Radio Democracy ‘Gud Morning Salone’ program, while updating the public on the Torma Bum Rice Project.
“One of the reasons we have not yet supplied the Torma Bum rice to the market is that we don’t have rice milling machine to process the rice we have harvested and it will take a couple of years for Sierra Leone to stop rice importation. But that is something we want to address before the end of this five years or to reduce it to the minimum,” he said.
He said currently, the government was importing between 50 to 60% of rice just to satisfy the needs of Sierra Leoneans, and that they were certain that they can do 50% of the work to reduce the amount of rice importation.
Wai said the project is divided into phases- infrastructural development and the farm production phases, but that they have gone far with the first phase.
He said the project aims at developing 12,500 hectares of land for rice production by small-holder farmers in the riverine grassland area of Torma Bum, and that it also aims at increasing rice production in the country to help bridge the gap between local demand for rice and local production.
He added that they have built warehouses, drying floor, market facilities, and rice mill and that they have also done 35km of feeder roads, moved the rice into the stores and rice mill.
He said they have also fixed 4000 irrigation at Torma Bum.
Bowai said the project operates in three chiefdoms-Bums in Bonthe District, Mambolo and Samu Chiefdoms in Kambia District.
“Before you go into any large scale production, you need to find somewhere to keep your products, you also need to have infrastructure or else you will not be able to handle what you are expecting. That’s why infrastructure is very important if you want to ensure a sustainable production, especially for rice. For example, if you harvest rice and leave it like that it will get spoiled within 24 hours. That’s why we need artificial driers for us to dry the rice and later store it,” he said.
Bu Wai said they would soon go into large scale farming that should be sustainable and profitable for everyone in the country, adding that should they miss one step, the whole program will spoil and that they need to address areas of importance.
He noted that by December this year, they would start constructing the roads at Samu Chiefdom, which will be completed within 6-8 months and the irrigation will last for 18 months, adding that they were also fixing other things they needed just to aid farm production.
“We have started and we have planted up to 3000 hectares of rice, but to process it is a big challenge because we don’t have the kind of equipment in the country. By next year, it will be a thing of the past and Sierra Leoneans will start seeing the Torma Bum project in a different light,” he concluded.