January 25, 2017 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
The World Bank and the British Department for International Development (DFID) are supporting the implementation of a project which seeks to promote agricultural productivity through increase access to markets and finance.
The Smallholder Commercialization and Agribusiness Development Project (SCADeP), which is a five year programme, was officially launched on Friday (January 20) by Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown
The $55millioin project; $40million from the World bank and $15million from DFID, will help in improving the lives of 50,000 people, of which 40% are women and youth farmers and also build links between smallholder farmers and selected agribusiness firms who buy from them in the country.
During the event, World Bank Country Manager, Parminder Brar opined that Sierra Leone has all the ingredients necessary for successful agriculture, citing land, water and rainfall.
“Sierra Leone has a huge potential for growing it agriculture if you compare it to Africa. I have traveled around this country, the potential is incredible. You have the land, water and rainfall. Only 8.1% of the land in Sierra Leone is currently on agriculture right now,” he said.
He stated that Sierra Leone has an arable land area of 5.36million hectares, which is 74% of the overall land area of the country and that the amount of land which is actually being cultivated was less than 0.4million hectares.
According to him, there was absolutely no reason Sierra Leone should continue spending a whopping $350 million to import agricultural products every year.
Brar maintained that the bank saw the agricultural sector as priority number one because of the fact that it accounts for 50% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with 70% of the population involve in agriculture.
He stated that the project would work under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security and other line ministries, to help the country and the president achieve the objectives of not only exporting products but also reducing food insecurity, which currently exist in many parts of the country.
While thanking President Ernest Bai Koroma for being the driver of agriculture, the World Bank boss reckoned that to move agriculture to the next level, access to inputs which is cheap and available all over the country is needed by the people, especially farmers.
British High Commissioner, Guy Warrington said: “The poor state of rural road network means that it is often too expensive for farmers to get their produce to the market, or it takes so long that goods perish before they can be sold.”
He stated with the United Kingdom’s $15million support to the project, it would help in tackling the problem by paying for the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of over 500KM of feeder roads.
According to him, by connecting farmers to the road network, they would be able to sell their produce at market, increasing their incomes and helping them invest in their farms, as well as supporting their families.
He added that the project would also reduce the country’s vulnerability to food insecurity and also improve access for women and children in rural communities to school and health facilities.
Giving the overview, Project Coordinator, Sulaiman Sesay, said the project would promote smallholder commercialization by fostering productive business linkages between farmers and agribusiness firms and other commodity off-takers in the country.
He stated that the project would support four main commodity value chains; rice, oil palm, cocoa and poultry but added that other viable and profitable value chains can be supported after visibility study.
“This project is designed to address various forms of market failures which constrain smallholder agricultural productivity,” he said.
Officially launching the project, Vice President Foh said since assuming office in 2007, the president has made a commitment of empowering the rural poor by increasing their food security and income and sustain their livelihood.
He noted that evidence and experience have shown that while commercialization in agriculture was a promising path to poverty reduction and food security, it is not without planning and implementation.
“Today’s launch underscores government commitment to poverty reduction goals, empowerment of smallholder farmers, women, young people and agribusiness development. We have embark on this path knowing fully well that large number of our citizens are engage in agriculture, quite a number of farmers are engage in subsistence farming and there is no level of commercialization in agricultural production,” he said.
To ensure effective commercialization, the Vice President maintained that farmers need government and private sector intervention for support.
He said the government has supported farmers with inputs, expose them to new technologies and farming techniques, as well as promoting better seed production and assured that they would continue to support them in addressing environmental challenges relating to the use of fertilizers and pesticides.