June 23, 2016 By Victoria Saffa
In a bid to assess the current status of the hitherto Agricultural Training Centre of Excellence for possible rehabilitation, Interim Programme Manager of the Smallholder Commercialisation Programme/Global Agricultural and Food Security Programme (SCP/GAFSP), Muhammed Ajmal Bhatti has concluded a working visit to the Mange Bureh Agricultural Training Centre in Port Loko district.
The Centre is one of two outstanding agricultural training centres in the country. Located in Bunglor, Mange Bureh Town, Port Loko district in northern Sierra Leone, it is strategically perched along the Little Scarcies River, just about fifteen minutes’ drive from the Sierra Leone/Guinea international express highway.
The centre was established in 1968 by the Government of Sierra Leone, primarily for the training of agro-technicians who would then blend with local farmers to form farmers’ settlement teams that would undertake farming activities across the country.
Speaking on the importance of the centre, SCP/GAFSP Consulting Engineer, Robert Bailey said the irrigation facility from the nearby Little Scarcies River, which always has enough water supply, enables the centre to effectively serve as a major food production zone, with the potential for feeding the entire northern province.
He said reviving the facility would bring a major breakthrough in the agricultural sector in the country, adding that the rebel incursion in Sierra Leone inflicted serious damage on the entire infrastructure at the centre and that its deterioration had been worsened by the negative effects of inclement weather conditions.
“Looking at the current status of the centre, one could see about fourteen existing building facilities that are in total ruins and desperately require serious rehabilitation attention, so as to prevent further deterioration and possible loss of the facilities in the near future. The farmers’ settlement quarters are already gradually collapsing. With the exception of the training director’s quarter, the guest house and the main rice store which have roof structures and some doors and windows, all of the remaining buildings merely consist of bare block walls, and most of them are mapped with structural cracks,” he stated.
Ing. Bailey further said that in addition to the dilapidated state of the existing structures, there were virtually no existing water and electricity supply grid distribution systems.
However, a former graduate of the centre, Mohamed Tholley, said the entire country was gradually running out of trained and qualified agro-technicians because of closure of the training centre.
He therefore commended the move by SCP/GAFSP to rehabilitate the centre, which he said could enhance learning in that ideal environment.
“This training centre, if properly rehabilitated, will considerably strengthen sustainable agriculture and medium to small scale farming, which are essential components in the effort to enhance the global commitment to food security schemes,” he said.
As part of moves to complement government’s efforts in empowering the rural poor to overcome poverty and enhance sustainable food security in the country, Information, Education and Communication Officer at SCP/GAFSP, George Nyambe Williams said the SCP/GAFSP has deemed it necessary to rehabilitee the Mange Bureh Agricultural Training Centre as part of its annual work target for 2016.
He stated that following the assessment of the facilities by the Interim Programme Manager, an implementation design proposal has been developed, while a meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security has been scheduled, with a view to expedite the rehabilitation process.
He continued that activities coordinated at the centre specifically entail holistic integrated approach geared towards enhancing food security at national level.
George said one of the most outstanding features of the centre was its vast expanse of field demonstration plots and valuable stretch of reserved farm lands which consist of two sections, the partially cultivated Bunglor site, which is about 111 acres and the Kanthabarna ploughing site, which is about 5000 acres of valid farm land reserve.