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WAAPP launches emergency seed support to farmers

May 14, 2015 By Moses A. Kargbo

The West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme Sierra Leone (WAAPP-SL) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, in collaboration with the National Ebola Response Center (NERC), on Monday May 11 formally launched the Rapid Emergency Seed Project for farmers in Sierra Leone. The ceremony, which took place in the northern city of Makeni, was a reception program for Sierra Leone of the Ebola Emergency Seed support to the Mano River Union (MRU) countries.

The over US$3 million project is being funded by the World Bank and coordinated at the regional level by the Bank, ECOWAS and the West and Central Africa Center for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD). It is implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and WAAPP-SL.

Giving an update on the Rapid Ebola Seed Distribution Project (RESDP), Project Coordinator of WAAPP-SL, Sulaiman Sesay, said the scheme hopes to deliver some 2,038 metric tons of seed, 2,000 of which is lowland and 38 upland rice. He said 165 tons of foundation seed rice will also be provided – all intended for this year’s planting season.

“A lot of effort was made by institutions to bring the seeds into the country, among which are the World Bank who provided the funding, the West and Central Africa Center for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD) and AFRICA RICE,” Mr. Sesay informed the gathering. “The upland rice is already in the country and is ready for distribution to the various districts. We have also received some good quantity of lowland seed rice, and each consignment has to go through seed certification process.”

The WAAPP-SL national coordinator noted that farmers across the country – selected at district level, and who meet the set criteria – will benefit from the seed distribution programme. Fertilizer, he added, will also be provided to the farmers as part of the support, and that beneficiaries are expected to pay back to the seed bank to ensure the programme continues to benefit other farmers.

In his keynote address, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay, said the Ebola viral disease which struck the country almost a year ago has affected all sectors, not least agriculture, which he said employs over 65% of labour in the country. He said the livelihood of a lot of people employed within the agriculture sector was seriously shaken as farmers all over the country had to grapple with the realisation that they had to face harsh realities due to the unavailability of “direly needed seeds for the next planting season”.

Such unavailability, he said, was caused by factors such as travel restrictions and restriction on movement at the height of the outbreak.

“Many farmers were unable to access their farms and in cases where they were directly affected, it took time for such farms with overripe rice to be harvested through community intervention,” noted the minister. “Those who did not have other livelihood other than farming transformed their seeds into rice grain to mitigate hunger. Such was the situation that all hope seemed lost. But today, with the official launching of the Rapid Ebola Seed Distribution Project, hope is found and such hope will send ripples of joy in the hearts of hardly hit farmers.”

In his statement, head of the World Food Programme (WFP) North, Gus Myers, said some 1,170 tons of rice will be provided to 30,000 farmers across the country for eating so that they could use the seed rice provided to them for planting.

He pledged his organisation’s commitment to supporting the project so that farmers could increase their yield to feed the nation.

World Bank Country Manager, Francis Ato-Brown, said the emergency seed support is meant to achieve two main objectives: firstly, to help farmers harvest more rice this year; and secondly, to help strengthen the country’s seed system through the additional stock of foundation seed which will be multiplied, certified and be available for the next growing season.

“We need to identify farmers who have the means to be able to utilize the seed, and not consume it; we need to put in place appropriate monitoring arrangements to ensure better use,” said the World Bank country boss.

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