FREETOWN, March 14, 2016—The Government of Sierra Leone and the World Bank today signed a US$40 million credit agreement to support smallholder commercialization and agribusiness development in Sierra Leone. The project is co-financed by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) with an additional US$15 million making the total project funding of US$55 million. The project was approved by the World Bank Board of Executive Directors on February 18, 2016 and will run until May 31, 2021.
The Smallholder Commercialization and Agribusiness Development project will promote smallholder commercialization by fostering productive business linkages between smallholder farmers and selected agribusiness firms and other commodity off-takers in Sierra Leone. It will help improve agricultural productivity and access to markets, as well as develop inclusive smallholder farmer-agribusiness linkages in order to help smallholder farmers access markets and improve their incomes.
“This project will help the country to recover from the effects of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and to contribute towards higher medium to long-term agricultural growth required to reduce extreme levels of poverty among smallholder farmers and promote shared growth,” said Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Sierra Leone.
Before the Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic which hit the country in May 2014, Sierra Leone had been making commendable progress since the end of the civil war in 2002. The Ebola crisis has taken a heavy economic toll on the country, with much of the economic impact still unfolding.
“There is an urgent need to strengthen post-Ebola growth prospects by investing in key sectors such as agriculture, and this project will support Government’s efforts in this area” said Parminder Brar, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone.
The project will also set up an agribusiness development fund to leverage private sector investment in agriculture to foster smallholder participation. It will establish a smallholder credit scheme implemented by the APEX Bank LTD, and rehabilitate feeder roads to link smallholder farmers to markets. Finally, it will provide technical advisory services and build state and non-state institutions capacity, including farmers groups that provide essential services for agribusiness development.
“We believe this operation presents innovative aspects addressing the key challenges affecting smallholder productivity and growth,” says Simeon Ehui, World Bank Manager, West Africa Agriculture Global Practice.
The Smallholder Commercialization and Agribusiness Developmentproject will benefit 50,000 smallholder farmers, of which 40%will be women and youth farmers. It is consistent with Sierra Leone’s goal of achieving inclusive growth, which is one of the key pillars of the country’s longer term development strategy – the Agenda for Prosperity.
The project will be implemented in all regions of the country.