Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 September 2020:
Sierra Leone’s chief minister in the Bio-led government has turned his hands to rice farming, combining his newfound vocation with national politics, responsible for coordinating and overseeing the performance of all government ministries.
After making a bumpy transition from a classroom professor at Bradford university in the UK to become one of the most powerful figures and trusted allies of the president, Dr. David Francis is now running a lucrative rice farm. He names his brand of rice – ‘ECO Rice’.
Professor David John Francis says that his 444 acres of farmland which is about the size of 220 football pitches in his hometown – Kenema, is his response to president Bio’s call for public officials to embark on agriculture to help the government meets its national food self-sufficiency agenda.
Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world, despite the abundance of natural resources and fertile land for farming.
According to latest data, over 70% of people in Sierra Leone go hungry as the economy contracts due to the coronavirus pandemic and rising costs of imported foods.
Over $200 million is spent on importing rice which is the country’s staple food. But this could change, if politicians across the country and government officials – many of whom are regarded as corrupt, decide to invest in farming and food production.
Chief Minister Dr David Francis has become a trailblazer and an exemplar for politicians in sierra Leone, whose dependency on corrupt party politics and abuse of power for amassing personal wealth is costing the nation over Five Hundred Million Dollars every year.
A green revolution could take millions of Sierra Leoneans out of poverty in just three years, and Sierra Leone could earn at least $250 million on farming exports every year.
So how profitable is rice farming for Chief minister David Francis?
According to reports, Dr David Francis visited his Eco rice farm recently to start his first harvesting of what is referred to as a ‘three-months rapid yield hybrid nutritious rice variety’ that is now selling in markets at Le 200,000 (Two Hundred Thousand Leones) for a 50kg bag, which is slightly below the average market price.
ECO Rice is said to be the cheapest, high-quality and nutritious rice in the country, and professor Francis is set to make millions of dollars in annual profits.
Speaking at his farm, Professor David Francis is reported to call on farmers to take agriculture production seriously, and appealed to his fellow politicians to join him in making farming a successful vocation that could feed the nation.
He told farmers that his government is ready to support them in making sure rice is affordable in the country, and help reduce the $200 million spent on importing rice to Sera Leone annually – which is a big factor affecting the value of the national currency – the Leone.
Cultivating and harvesting a rice farm about the size of 220 football pitches does not come easy, without the use of modern technology.
Although many would argue that lack of mechanisation is an opportunity for millions of unskilled youths to be employed in farming, the impact on productivity and production yield is huge and chief minister Francis knows that.
He said that because of the size of his farm, harvesting which is done manually by hundreds of local people – especially women, will continue until February 2021.
Professor Francis’ ambition is to establish ECO Rice retail outlets across all districts of Sierra Leone, starting with his hometown Kenema, which will be the national headquarters of his ECO Rice Production Company.
Will other government ministers and politicians follow the chief minister’s entrepreneural example?
To be a thief has always been the mindset of the APC party anytime they are in governance. But unfortunately, people always misconstrued that every Sierra Leonean is corrupt because the APC party always tried their best to legalize or normalize stealing. There is a process to formally declare someone as a thief, which starts from evidence and for politicians, evidence from the Auditor General or the ACC. How can a thief call the police and the ACC on himself?
The reality is, APC thieves have already paid and are still paying back the stolen monies from the people and some of them have already gotten sick and died from the curse of the citizens and hopefully when the white paper is released, the destructive APC politicians will cough up all our monies. May the Almighty continue to bless our Chief Minister for calling out the APC “AYAMPIES” for what they are, and we wish you the best on your project of Rice Production.
Any attempt to encourage farming in our beloved country is a plus. APC party did not have any interest of investing in farming.
There is no law which prohibits a minister from engaging in anything lawful, including agriculture. God knows agriculture is a sector which requires intense attention and an infusion of cash. President Bio’s jetting all over the world , ostensibly in search of investors into the sector, came to nought.
If the chief minister’s foray into agriculture is within the confines of propriety and unquestionable integrity, good luck to him. However his track record since landing in the country from England has shown a dark side of the professor and PhD holder. This makes it possible for a sizeable number of us to doubt whether his acquisition of everything connected to his venture, has been done or going to be done with utter honesty and fair play.
Sometimes in the dead of night, when lights are out, we are visited by our inner self (call it soul ). It keeps us awake with incessant questions which are simple but difficult to answer; they allude to the possibility of divine or retributive justice being on the way. It is therefore not far-fetched to assert that David Francis has seen something in the shadows which is damning. And so he is in a mode of mitigation. That is why he is going into farming, so that he can return the bags of rice given to the government by China to feed school children which he helped to disappear. His first harvest should do the trick.
It is difficult to say whether the Chief Minister could still have invested in rice cultivation in his old stumping ground of Kenema District had he still been darkening the classrooms and lecture theatres of Bradford University, in the heart of Yorkshire. We know that the average salary of a Lecturer at Bradford university is about £42,000, more or less the equivalent a Sierra Leone Government Minister is remunerated. I stand to be corrected. Whether the chief minister could have saved quite enough in his academic and public service jobs to have obtained enough seed money for his farming project is understandably open to debate.
The important thing I want to say here, is, Bio’s right-hand man both in Yorkshire and Freetown, should be applauded for opting to pour his savings or loot, depending on your take, on a piece of Sierra Leone’s fertile ground or land. I have to give it to him, in the same vein I give a few credit to our infamous former Vice-president in the 70s and 80s, one of our original nation-wreckers – wait for it. Late S I Koroma was notorious for all kinds of egregious activities in his heydays but his love of rural settings saw his savings and any ill-gotten wealth diverted to Self-help Projects, one or two of which are still benefiting up to this day families, friends or ordinary folks in Port Loko District.
So let the learned Professor, who by the way, outside the crowd dynamics of politics, I think is a fine Gentleman, continue his farming activities. Posterity or subsequent election cycles will judge his sources of funding for his “green revolution”. He seems to be hijacking Momoh Big Waist’s empty slogan, without those Toyota pickups.
The Chief Minister, Professor Francis is positioning himself to succeed President Bio after his tenure. Mark my words! He is a canny operator and building a campaign chest for that battle. Take note VP Dr Juldeh Jalloh, the writing is going up on the wall. Of course the VP knows, ditto the Chief Minister, that in the political history of Sierra Leone, no Vice President has ever succeeded his boss.
Many years ago Sierra Leone used to grow its rice and was able to feed itself. Then the Stevens government realised you can actually use your staple food to control the general population and members of the security services. Even the military’s royalty was bought by a monthly bag of rice as part of their wage packet. More like you don’t want to cut the hand that feeds you. It is an old trick in the book. President Bio and his government understand that more than anyone cares to admit. They are using the same old rule book.
They will do everything to keep us where they want us to be. If we are dependent on the government for our every day survival, there is very little chance we will find any fault in the way they misgoverned our country. I hope the Chief minister can produce enough rice to feed the people of Kenema, never mind the rest of the country. Finally he is one of us. Or so he wants us to tbink of him. Food has been used as a political weapon to control the general population.
Indeed Liberia’s president Tolbert was overthrown by Doe, after the rice riots in 1980.The more you weaponise the staple food the more the general population becomes dependent on your government whims. The idea this government is supporting our local famers, so Sierra Leone will be less reliant on foreign aid, is full of hot air. Hence the introduction of Chinese rice in our menu.
Now if the chief Minister in his new reincarnation as a rice farmer will get all the support he needs to become a successful rice farmer, his government should extend the same level of commitment to help our small scale famers to make them more productive.
For anyone to criticize the chief minister for his farming activities is self-defeating to say the least. The man is helping to improve the lives of people in his home community.
Mr Dauda – If this fragile nation of ours is going to make any kinds of sustainable progress we have to start doing things legitimately by the book; If the Chief Minister has nothing to hide,then let him go right ahead and put us to shame by disclosing the sources of his funding for such a massive rice project. Now there are many reasons why transparency in such a crucial undertaking is of paramount importance.
Firstly,we need to identify sources of funding,so that if they are legitimate others will be able to easily tap into it for the future benefit of our beloved Sierra Leone. Secondly, to build a credible foundation on which this little struggling country of ours can stand unshaken and be able to compete for many generations to come, we will need to ensure that all the pillars and support structures of Sierra Leone are totally transparent and free from and having any semblances of corruption, malfeasance, criminality and shady practices – thats how you BUILD TO LAST!
Again, what kind of message are we sending to our children if any Saffa, Francis, Sandy and Bio with some crooked cash will be easily granted permission to start their own dubious business in Sierra Leone,the only place I am proud to call my home. (lol) Answer – should we open our doors wide to criminals because we are hungry? Of course not! This is the finest moment for the Chief Minister to use transparency as a glittering sharpened sword against his detractors, if truly he has nothing to hide – Surely his hands are dirty, tainted with bribery that’s why he would never provide us with any pellucid information pertaining to his rice project or become openly transparent thereby putting to rest all unfounded doubts and speculations.
“The Chief Minister was allegedly involved in a $1.5 million bank fraud which to the ACC refused to thoroughly investigate” Adewale John.
This is a classical case of lies when told repeatedly either get distorted along the way or succeed in hoodwinking the gullible. A journalist for whatever reasons smsed the Chief Minister while the latter was outside the country, claiming he and some other journalists have evidence that indicate that the Sierra Leone mining company management bribed the Chief Minister to help convince the president to restore their Mining contract. The chief minister called the police and the ACC alleging that the said journalist was blackmailing him. The ACC initiated investigation into the alledged bribery case. The police initiated investigation into the alleged blackmail.
The journalist never turned over his evidence to the ACC. The bank where the alledged bribe money was transferred wrote to the ACC that the Chief Minister does not have any account with them. No other journalists presented or published the story. The police arrested the journalist for blackmailing. Even after his release he has never presented or published the evidence. Nor has he turned his evidence to even friendly or international publishers to publish his story and his evidence.
In the main time, we know how the matter between the SL Mining Company and the government of Sierra Leone.
So Mr Adewale John, when did the Chief Minister involve himself in a bank fraud? This might be new and we are interested to know. Last year there were stories about the chief minister engaging in farming activities. It was not as big as this. So why do Sierra Leoneans cast aspersions on everything others do, even when it is for the good of the commonwealth?
AAJ et all will agree that it is better to invest in one’s own country than to do so in another man’s land. NOTE: farm land is not bought in my part of the country – we just cultivate on land as far as you can see, with permission from the local people and the chiefs. Learn to think positive, folks! Leave politics alone.
Tu parles Monsieur Wiecha. Did you hear about the disappearance of US$1,600, 000 from an account at ECOBANK? The ACC has yet to make a full investigation. But as will all now know, when it comes to a Bio SLPP kakistocracy supporter, corruption is rocket science and takes ages to conclude. We will know the truth after 2023. God help us find the truth about the disappearance of One Million and Six Hundred Thousand US dollars from an ECOBANK account to appear in a farming project. Can you imagine? God bless Mr Reinhard Weicha.
Thanks for posting! Thanks to Chief Minister for having and expressing a great love for his country; thus may God Almighty continue with his wisdom and understanding towards his life. This way of showing patriotism can let a country that is suffering from hunger succeed in eliminating it from the country. Will he do this for the other districts as he has promised? By God’s grace he will succeed in his vision. Thanks once more able Head Minister.
Whatever distractors and enemies of progress are saying without evidence they can provide and defend in a law court against the Chief minister, even if it is true of their claim, he has not carted away such loot to overseas banks accounts, but he has invested his own hard-earned money both as a former professor in Bradford university in the UK and his current salaries/BENEFITS as THE CURRENT Chief minister of Salone under the dynamic SLPP party led executive administration.
The only thing these distractors fail to realise is the variations in the salary-scale differences between the public/private sector, in a society where there is massive unemployment amongst its populace. Thank God these public servants can use their earnings and invest them in agricultural products to reduce massive hunger/starvation among the masses. Where are THE MECHANISED/massive agricultural farms of the FORMER key APC teams boasted of when they were in executive leadership government from November 2007 – April 2018? They left us as the third hungriest country in the world, but their leaders were giving US$300 million cash to their Lebanese partners, just to import rice into the country during every year OF THEIR REIGN.
Thank you chief minister for your venture into agriculture to help reduce the cost of living/suffering by your farm, producing 3 times in a year during rice cultivation/harvesting. If that venture can make you a self made millionnare praise be to God almighty, as the populace will know and demand your farm produce which you supplied for them.
Bottom line, the Government’s so called Tomabum Rice Project has now been sabotaged and completely dead. The Chief Minister becoming a potential Rice dealer, to sabotage the Republic of Sierra Leone Government’s Rice Project, which will benefit the whole country? What a shame! NONSENSE! Sucking my teeth. When will our leaders put Sierra Leone and it’s people first? What a stinky selfish idea. God help and bless the people of Sierra Leone. Help is on its way my people. Amen.
Whatever is hidden in the darkness will eventually come out in broad daylight for all to see – now we know what the 1.5 million bribe money was for. Who in their right minds wouldn’t agree that pay-off money has been working overtime like a plantation slave for the Honorable Chief Minister? When a questionable government official gets deeply involved in any kind of lucrative commercial enterprise or undertaking, there should be serious reasons for concern.These shady SLPP individuals are truly experts in disguising their criminal behavior and tendencies.
They are robbing a system blind that is vulnerable to fraud, that is overcrowded with naive people loyal to the bone to their tribal leaders and not to Sierra Leone. Gentlemen, what you are now witnessing is the ART OF SIPHONING MONEY in its most subtle and perfect form. Here’s how the principle works – Firstly, get yourself elected to public office; next begin putting measures in their rightful places to enable you to transform the country into a ruthless Mafia-owed Democracy, then subtly and steadily begin sucking the treasury and coffers of our nation dry through a political system, comprising of three powerful SLPP individuals resembling giant vacuum machines – Bio, JJ Saffa and David Francis. Those men are the ones sucking away at our nation’s meager monetary resources and depositing it quietly in diverse ventures, programs and businesses controlled by their criminal cabal.
Now here’s the saddest part – studies have indicated that monies that are siphoned are rarely ever recovered, only the thieves end up reaping the juicy rewards. Sierra Leone we have a problem! Our nation is being treated like a medieval harlot that is subjected to the laws of bondage, and we must all strive to set her free. Only transparency in its purest forms will convince some of us that this is not a questionable project – show us the money and how it was acquired for such a massive project, together with all the necessary documents, highlighting that those acres and acres of farmland was legitimately earned.
This is a clear manifestation of “Leading By Example” I hope the Chief Minister will travel around the four corners of our country and continue to educate the people about the diversification of our economy through Agriculture especially in Freetown and the Mining areas. The narrative put out by the APC “ D Gron Dry” is because some of our healthy citizens are parambulating our major cities as so-called business people instead of making use of our productive lands in the provinces. I hope this positive development will help transform our country once again to “Rice Exporter” especially to our ECOWAS sub region.
Absolutely a commendable venture by the chief minister, albeit the questionability of his source of funds to finance such a massive investment. I mean, how can a man who spent decades in the western world, earning a meaningful salary from his lecturing career, be unable to own a 2 bedroom duplex in his native country; yet after spending just over 2 years in politics, in the same native deprived country, he can not only boast of a massive mansion but a multi-million dollar investment? Helloo, do we have an ACC in the house??
I mean what planet are our educated African brothers living in. Tbis corrupt Bio government and his ministers, want to dip their hands in any tbing and everything that can swell their bank blances. Soon when the chief minister Francis’ farm come on stream, it won’t suprise me if tbis government pass a law that all of us have to buy our national staple food – rice from Bio and his ministers, failing which might incur six months in prison at Bio’s pleasure.
Why can’t this government support our local farmers, by providing them the necessary funding and equipment to improve their productivity. Instead of undermining their effort to feed our nation. This is the way this scheme is going to work. More like the collective farming under the Soviet Union. Local farmers toil all year round to produce their farm produce, only to be forced to sell it to the government.
So local farmers in Kenema that have been edged out of the competition will soon find themselves selling their rice produce to the chief minister. HE IS OUR SON. He will of couse buy it at a low price and sell it at an inflated price to make profit at the back of poor famers. Majority of which are women famers doing back breaking jobs in all sorts of weather all day – every day. To be honest, I don’t know how these government ministers sleep at night, knowing full well they are just in politics for money. Sierra Leone and its suffering people can wait for that Jerusalem that never seems to come. May God bless Sierra-leone.
Chief minister was allegedly involved in a $1.5 million bank fraud which the ACC refused to thoroughly investigate. Now the Chief minister has turned up with a 444 acre rice farm, which by all accounts is beyond his earnings as a government minister. Where did he get the cash from?
Will the ACC now conduct a proper investigation into the chief minsiter’s source of funds for this rice farm, or will he wait until APC comes to power in 2023 and then launch a commission of inquiry? Your call Mr ACC.
If someone suddenly pops up with wads of cash without convincing evidence of how the cash is earned, we will suspect the person of money laundering. Now an office based ‘farmer’ has suddenly popped up with bags of white rice with no evidence of how the rice was cultivated, especially when tons of donated white Chinese rice (same colour) have gone missing, and you want to know if I am impressed. Hmmm. What can I say!
Power is sweet!! Those who are born to clap now have a reason to do so with even more vigour.
Great venture by the Chief Minister. Keep it up. Hope other ministers replicate this effort by the chief minister. Bravo CM.
Good let the Chief MInister now support the school feeding programme with the rice harvest!!
The direction to be more independent from rice imports is the right one. But let me ask two questions: How did the chief minister get this 444 acres of land, and how much money did he
pay? How much do the employed people (woman and youth) earn for harvesting?