Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 September 2021:
Minister of State in the office of the Vice President, Mrs Francess Piagie Algalie on Wednesday presented a report on the country’s food systems to President Dr Julius Maada Bio, noting that they have worked collaboratively with several partners to ensure the recommendations can help boost the country’s food production and sustainability.
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi, expressed gratitude to the President for his robust leadership in ensuring that Sierra Leone participated in the dialogue process through the office of the Vice President, as the focal point.
He said that the main idea is to transform the country’s food systems, adding that the dialogue was consultative, and the report contained recommendations if fully implemented would help the food systems and transform food production.
Speaking on behalf of donor partners, the Irish Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Claire Buckley, said they are pleased to be part of the process as they have invested a lot of funds on food security.
Presenting the report to President Bio, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Dr Abubakar Karim, said food production has been interrupted mainly because of national disasters and that the report is timely. He said the country needs multisectoral policy in a bid to transform food systems.
He thanked all donors and the United Nations for their support towards the process and assured them of implementing the recommendations.
Addressing the meeting, President Julius Maada Bio thanked the team for working intensively and collaboratively to ensure they put out a detailed report.
He expressed delight at the support from donors who participated and ensured the process was consultative, adding that his government’s main initiative is human capital development, and that food security is an integral part of the initiative.
He stated that the country has the necessary conditions but needs systems in place that would help the process.
The challenges facing our government to feed its population is enormous.If the problem was lurking in the shadows before covid19 hits our shores, now it is looming larger than the Bio government can just shrug of their shoulders, and think is buiness as usual. The negative social, and economic consequences in society is greater than people are ready to accept. This United Nations, and other international development partners recommendations, is a wake up call and demands action from this Bio government. Bio and his government, needs to roll up their sleeves, and invest in large scale farming.This is one area that have suffered investment draughts from governments for decades. Yes as Bio alluded in his acceptance speech,we have the necessary conditions to make it work, but at the same time, we need commitments by his government, not just by words but by deeds. We know, since he assumed power, he can talk the talk, but he can’t walk the walk.I call it the Bio quagmire. And is what our country is suffering from . And this is where his government have failed the people of Sierra Leone.
He knows the problems facing our country, but for some unfathomable reasons, he is unable or unwilling to do anything about it. More like he is in power, but powerless, and overwhelmed by power itself . We cannot talk of human developments and food security, which is the basis for any long term sustainable economic growth , like feeding the population, whilst at the same time,his government have failed in its duties to invest in various sectors of our economy to create the necessary conditions for growth. With covid19, and the impact on the restrictions placed on the general population, and majority of people working in the informal sector of our economy, with no social security safty net, or health insurance, people’s livelihoods have borne the brunt of all the fall out from the covid19 pandemic. Both famers in the rural areas that can’t take their produce to our towns, and cities, due to travel restrictions placed on them, and international travel bans for imports, the downside to all of the above have pushed up prices for house hold items needed for families to meet their daily nutritional needs.
The price of a bag rice has gone up. And beyond reach for majority of people. For some families they have to make stark choices to keep their head above water. With a run away inflation, and deprecated wages, for many they have seen their standard of living take a drastic turn for the worst, and disappear in a huge black hole . The consequences of which, other household food items, like pepper, orkra, ogiri cassava are now reserved for the very privileged in society . Working with our international partners, the government should implement the recommendations in full. The United Nations and other international bodies are willing to offer us the helping hand to realise our food security needs . The Bio government should not standby and watch events unfold, but should be at the forefront in fighting against hunger in our country. One way of doing things, the government should actively protect food supply chains, and consider the essential sectors that are affected by government policies. Also the government should consider the fiscal, and monetary incentives, particularly to small scales farmers, that are competing with large scale multinational farmers that is fast dominating the Sierra Leonean landscape.