Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 January 2021:
The government of Sierra Leone has imported 2,410 agricultural equipment and 410 tractors for the 2021 national planting season. Last Thursday, President Bio visited the Ministry of Agriculture’s Central Storage facility in Kissy, east of the capital Freetown, where he inspected the range of machinery and equipment that could give hope to thousands of farmers across the country, if distributed equitably and rationally.
In the 2018 New Direction Manifesto of the SLPP, the President emphasised that the overall goal of his government’s agriculture policy is to sustain and diversify the production of food, increase investment in agriculture, develop and implement mechanised commercial farming to transform the traditional subsistence agricultural sector.
At the inspection, President Bio said his visit was to show that his government is serious about improving the agricultural sector, and providing the enabling environment for farmers to exhibit and discover their true potentials.
“There has been constant grumbling about the lack of mechanisation in farming over the years. With these machines, it is now left with us as a country to effectively utilise them to increase agricultural productivity for the years ahead,” he noted.
The Acting Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Dr Abubakar Karim, said that all the 410 tractors and 2,410 farming equipment will be distributed across the country by next week, to ensure that farmers are ready for the 2021 planting season.
Absolutely a welcoming news for our impoverished nation. A nation that cannot feed itself will ever remain at the bottom of the human development index. On a cautionary note however, we must remember that this is not the first time such procurement of agricultural machinery has been done in recent memory. The previous regime were on record to spend billions in procuring a huge consignment of similar agricultural apparatus, including 10 tires dump trucks (Tippers) for each district during their first tenure, till date what exactly can we point to that made a difference? So while we welcome this new episode of another agricultural machinery procurement, we must also demand that meaningful results are produced this time around.
I believe this is a good decision, the right direction. I hope these agricultural equipment will be used in a cooperative way and there will be an effective skills training for maintenance.
This is great news for our country. If only Bio had focused his attention on this sort of positive change than waste three years of his Presidential term on dog fights with the opposition on FACEBOOK postings. Mark Zuckerberg owes Sierra Leone a moral apology for developing Facebook. Because we have our politicians that decide the fate of millions of lives and are supposed to know better, yet engaged in schoolboy play-ground bully tactics mostly associated with teenagers, instead of doing the job they are elected to do. Where are the Adults in State House? Agriculture is one of the ways to kick start our economy. In most developing countries like ours, agriculture policies, if planned and implemented correctly, become not only a source of feeding a hungry nation, that rely on food imports of its staple food rice, but also acts as a great source of income for farmers and their families and the wider communities.
Bio should put all our farmers on notice that the government is going to put a moratorium on rice imports. Hence in three to five years time, we expect our farmers to produce enough to feed Sierra Leone. No more imports of Chinese or Indian rice. If Bio and his government get their priorities right which is not always the case, Sierra Leone with its small and dynamic population, and easy-going people and infused with the right policy agendas and pointing the way ahead for our country, will not in the long distance future boasts of feeding herself, and revert to what we use to do back in the seventies – to produce enough to feed ourselves, and export the rest. The good news is, the majority of West African countries’ have rice and cassava as their staple food. But let us not get ahead of ourselves. Ii is one thing to import all these tractors to help our farmers, but it is not enough.
Government needs to build warehouses, construct good roads for the hard to reach areas in the provinces. Otherwise these tractors will be an other source of draining much needed funds for other areas in terms of maintenance. We have to adopt a holistic approach on all things agriculture. Including, and not limited to the training of our famers, who are responsible for the tractors in terms of maintenance and running them. Is it going to fall in the hands of the local chieftains or are the villagers going to appoint someone solely responsible for the up-keep of the tractors. Because what you don’t want is for people in the local community start playing politics in the distribution and maintenance of these tractors. Worst as the refrain goes “NAH GOVERNMENT PROPERTY” Which leaves it open to all sorts. Theft of spare parts and damage with little or no care. A good example are the Fire service trucks in Freetown before the war.
I understand what these tractors will do to improve agriculture in the country. No doubt about that. However, I have some concerns. How many billions of rupees was paid for these tractors and equipment? The President did not mention anything concerning the price tag. More importantly, are these tractors and equipment second hand, refurbished or new? Remember the “Broko Don” problems with the dump trucks from China? It will be very sad for a farmer on the first day of using his tractor to experience any “Broko Don”. I hope the Bio SLPP kakistocracy responds to my concerns. God bless our farmers. TBC.