Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 March 2019:
Sierra Leone’s minister of agriculture forestry and food security – Dr. Jonathan Joseph Ndanema has announced that each district in the country has been charged with the responsibility of cultivating 1,000 hectares of rice in order to attain Sierra Leone’s food self sufficiency.
He made this announcement in Kambia district, after conducting a nation wide feasibility study and needs assessment of all agricultural facilities and sites across the country, and ordered the District Agricultural Officer, (DAO) Mr. Saidu Bamayange to start the process.
He said that the government will provide all necessary facilities and resources to improve the productivity and yield of farmers that will help achieve food sufficiency in the country.
“This country is blessed with enough fertile land and it is very much absurd that we have to use every year the staggering amount of two hundred million dollars ($200,000,000) just to import our staple food – rice, from other countries. This is very much unacceptable and this government under President Bio will stop this importation of rice and cultivate more than enough to export to other countries” the minister.
Speaking in Kambia, the minister said there are people in Sierra Leone who do not want to see the dream of food self-sufficiency comes to fruition, because of the huge profits they are enjoying from the importation of rice.
The DAO spoke about some of the challenges his institution is facing, especially poor electricity supply, insufficient vehicles to undertake administrative operations, large number of volunteers working without stipends for months.
Speaking on behalf of the farmers, the chairlady for ‘Allah Tanto Farmers Association’ – Ramatu Bangura said that, they have made several achievements, but that the challenges outweigh the achievements.
She mentioned the lack of agricultural equipment – tractors, harvesters, and planters. She also complained about difficulties in accessing credit finance, lack of fertilizers, and polluted farm seedlings.
In another development, the Rokupr Agricultural Research Center which was established to help find innovative ways to improve production of rice and other agricultural products in order to achieve food self sufficiency is presently in an abysmal state of disrepair.
This was the conclusion of the feasibility studies and needs assessment conducted by the Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security, Dr. Jonathan Joseph Ndanema.
The Rokupr Agricultural Research Center is short of electricity, internet access and water supply needed by staff to carry out research.
Some of the staff accommodation destroyed during the war have still not been rehabilitated. Worse still, many of the infrastructure which should have been built during the WAAPP Programme were not constructed, whilst others were left incompleted, such as the biotechnology laboratory complex, greenhouses and cool rooms.
The Center is losing staff rapidly, through retirement without replacement. In the next five years, nearly all the technicians and senior supporting staff will be retired. Retirees have not been replaced in the past ten years. The few recruitment done were for the SLARI head office. For this reason, the center is currently short of technicians and work service staff.
As a result of the continual loss of staff, the number of security Personnel have reduced from thirty to eleven over the years, resulting to continuous loss of Center properties on campus as well as posing threat to staff safety.
The center is also facing challenges in terms of funding research activities for the past five years. This has affected the core functions of the center.
They have however initiated dry season cropping to minimize the shortage, although they are expecting some seeds from AfricaRice for onward multiplication. Appropriate support intervention is highly needed for effective seed production.
According to interviews conducted, for the past five years there have been no SLARI funded research activity at the centre. This has greatly affected work at the Center and in the Out-stations.
The centre is required to produce foundation seeds for the country by end of 2019 cropping season and achieve income generation, including one hundred acres of Boli land at Gbomsamba, fifty acres in Tormabum; and fifty acres each in the IVS and Mangrove swamp as contract farming scheme in Rokupr.
Responding to the harrowing account of staff working at the centre, the Minister assured them of the revamping and rejuvenation of the institution which is key, if the government is to achieve food self sufficiency and sustainability.
His main task he said is to ensure that the research institution can contribute meaningfully towards the development of agriculture in the country. He called on all staff to come together and put all hands on deck to restore the dignity of the centre.
“This institution is a good tool for the Ministry, and the SLPP government which is a talk and do government is here to make sure what happened in the past that affected the common man is removed. Everyone is equally important, therefore entitled to the state resources” he said.
The minister states “This country is blessed with enough fertile land” whilst the chair lady for ‘Allah Tanto Farmers Association’ – Ramatu Bangura mentioned “lack of fertilizers.”
I say, let Sierra Leone and their neighbouring countries be suffice with Allah’s natural fertile lands, and do away with chemical fertilizers in order to preserve the health and well being of our nation.
If only you know about the harmful effect of chemical fertilizer, then you will desist from recommending its usage on our virgin fertile lands.
To say the least, they taughtt us that “Fertilizers are substances used to add nutrients to the soil to promote soil fertility and increase plant growth. … Since salt content is one of the most critical characteristics of chemical fertilizers; they are expected to be harmful to agriculture in the long run as salts are harmful for plants as well as soil.”
On the contrary, excessive air and water-borne nitrogen from fertilizers may cause respiratory ailments, cardiac disease, and several cancers, as well as can “inhibit crop growth, increase allergenic pollen production, and potentially affect the dynamics of several vector-borne diseases, including West Nile virus, malaria, and cholera.
Our country at present, is unable to care for its population in many aspects of sustainability. With this ongoing, are we prepared for an additional epidemic of CANCER caused by CHEMICAL FERTILIZER?
Thanks a lot Mr. Tucker for informing me. I am really happy. What a breakthrough!
This is good news. I have for years now been calling for such investments in Tomabum. But nobody cares till now.
This is a big boost for the SLPP government and President Bio. I reckon that harvest from Tomabum will start before 2023.
These are the types of grants we need. I say grant and not aid because, the investors already know about their project beforehand. They know exactly what the money is for.
MAY GOD BLESS THIS PROJECT, ALL THOSE WHO MADE IT POSSIBLE, THE SLPP GOVERNMENT AND THE PRESIDENT.
Finally, God bless you Mr. Tucker. A dream come true.
That will be nice because it is such a disgrace depending on other countries for our staple food, even though we everything it takes to grow our own.
Impressive tour by the Minister. Did I see the minister in a farming outfit or did I see a woman in normal outfit with no gloves on trying to help feed her nation. There are lot of farmers like the woman in the picture all over the country working in the most horrible conditions to help feed their nation. Providing them with the right tools and machinery will help and protect them to produce more.
I thought the minister and his DAO would have been in their farming suit on a farm to experience what these farmers are going through. I was disappoint that it did not happen.
Did the minister visit any of the villages outside Rokupr to see for himself how these farmers are coping, especially with transportation of their harvest and planting materials? I would have loved to hear that the minister sat in one of those PANPAN boats, just to have the experience and see how those farmers are struggling.
Did the minister manage to visit YELEBUYA(a town that is threatening to sink) to see those farmers, fishermen and women and to propose measures for settling(relocating) our fellow Sierra Leoneans to other safe areas?
The visit to the Rice Research Centre was good to some extent. I applaud the minister for that. We need that centre for rice development and production research. Thumbs up mr. Minister.
This is what the Chair Lady of the farmers association said and I quote – ‘She mentioned the lack of agricultural equipment – tractors, harvesters, and planters. She also complained about difficulties in accessing credit finance, lack of fertilizers, and polluted farm seedlings.’. This is what farmers all over the country need.
The minister then said this and I quote – ‘The Minister announced that each district in the country has been charged with the responsibility of cultivating 1,000 hectares of rice in order to attain Sierra Leone’s food self sufficiency.’. All that the minister wants to do, has been proposed and done in the past. There is nothing new.
What I would like the minister to embark on, is to concentrate the resources to one or two areas for a start. The minister can ask the government to declare Gbomsamba and Tormabum state farms and just cultivate rice. Women can be employed to empower them. Will that not be good?
Why can’t the minister just say, the government is going to cultivate rice in the farming lands of Gbomsamba and Tormabum? Farming in these two areas will help the minister to monitor and manage the situation efficiently, instead of asking every district to farm. After Gbomsamba and Tormabum have been cultivated, the government can then move to other areas.
The problem with governments in Sierra Leone is that, they always have good ideas but their approach in achieving those ideas, are always wrong in my opinion.
Finally, can the minister just do his very best to divert all the resources to farming on Gbomsamba and Tormabum? The government can give assistance to farmers, but I recommend the government have state farms (Gbomsamba and Tormabum for a start) and take the lead in farming. These two areas if cultivated will feed the population as some analysts have suggested in the past.
Consider my suggestion Mr. Minister.
Thanks bro for your analysis. It is well understood. But do you know that the government had an angreement with Turkish investors to embark on an irrigation system that will cover 110,000 hectares, 6 chiefdoms in Bonthe and 5 chiefdoms in Pujehun districts?
It will cost 550 million dollars which have been agreed upon and is supposed to start this year and will provide 1.6mt per year. That is the Tomabum project that you mentioned in your post. Thanks sir.
Any journey starts with the first step despite the distance. Once the first step is taken, everything will now depend on discipline and organisation for a successful outcome. If the Minister is determined and serious, nothing can stop him, he will defeat deafitism.
God bless the Government,
It sounds like the SLPP are reading my thoughts. That’s fantastic. It’s the ultimate RIGHT DIRECTION for Mama Salone.
Read my article, “Why Sierra Leone’s development formula not working?” Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 August 2018.
Welcoming news and I just hope that the government will make this speech practical because African politician are good at speaking but quick to forget.