Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 October 2020:
President Julius Maada Bio last Saturday called on Sierra Leoneans to take up farming so as to help meet the country’s food sufficiency, which could reduce the vast sums of foreign exchange spent on importing rice.
He made this call last week at the Moyamba District Council Hall, during the launch of 14 infrastructure projects delivered by the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) in the South and Eastern Region of Sierra Leone.
President Bio, whose government says it is focusing on the country’s human capital development is also campaigning to increase access to foods through local production.
“We are currently spending huge amount of United States Dollars to import rice. That has a very huge impact on our foreign exchange as the exchange rate is always high. We have enough rainfalls, forests and fertile soil to cultivate our own rice here. If only we sincerely cultivate what we eat, we will stop importing food items that we should not be importing,” he said.
The Sierra Leonean president, who owns farms in the country and says he stopped eating imported rice long before he became president, also called on Paramount Chiefs to establish chiefdom farms, which would subsequently feed the people within their chiefdoms.
“I have told all my ministers, including other political appointees, to embark on farming. Once we do that, basic food items would never be imported, and we will be food sufficient. Prices of foodstuff will never be hiked,” he said.
According to President Bio, his government will ensure that in the future, the Ministry of Finance releases funds to purchase seed rice and distribute them to chiefdom authorities to farm.
The president called on citizens to diversify their diet, saying that there are yams, cassava, plantains, banana, ‘foo-foo’ and other foodstuff, which are locally produced, that could substitute the imported rice.
“The reason for spending lot of United States Dollars on the importation of rice is because most Sierra Leoneans have never opted to eat other foodstuff beside rice. This culture has to change if we want the forex to be stable and also be food sufficient,” he noted.
Such development plan is easily said than done. Every government in Sierra Leone has made the promise of reducing the importation of rice, if not totally stopped. But the reality in store is “unfulfilled promises.”Governments, past and present have been joking around importation” When will we as a nation succeed in eating what we grow? When will our leaders prioritize food on the table? SIERRA LEONE IS A BIG BRAIN TO WORK ON – THE MESS OF FOOD IMPORTATION.
Give praise where praise is due, embarking on farming is the right calling the president is making for everyone to get involved because, it’s the only way we are able to chase hunger off of our shores. People have always talked about the good old days when the country exceled in farming, cultivating a variety of grains of rice, feeding ourselves and to spare. But something wrong happened, from green revolution to three meals a day to bumper harvest, the country was still short.
Matters worsened with the establishment of the West African Rice Research center at Rokupr, in the Kambia District, which supposedly should have been a plus for the country but, it became a minus Why? God only knows. But, the population was rushing to the diamond boom in Konoland because, rice farming as we knew it, was devalued and the variety of our rice grains disappearing, stealthily leaving our shores to foreign lands, while quickly replaced with the rice from Burma, Indian, Pakistan and China. People became desperate.
It became apparently clear to the youth farmers that, farming as a vibrant occupation will no longer be the same, staying in the village was a recipe for hardship, so they began to migrate elsewhere, for more lucrative ways of earning their living in the city and towns. The choice was moving to the diamondiferous regions ‘to try luck” became the new order. It was only understandably so because, farming was slowly but, surely out of style. In my opinion, this was the true birth of hunger in the once food self sufficient country. There has been no turning back since but, forward to misery.
President Bio is making the case that we cannot continue on this path to misery. He is well advised calling on everyone, to make a comeback to farming to feed ourselves from locally produced rice. More exhilarating is the promise to help farmers with the seeds. But that should not, I encourage him, ought not to stop there; For best results, it will be of considerable significance to provide farmers with tractor ploughing machines and fertilizers with other incentives.
The president’s other calling for people to grow other foods in the country such as, yams, plantains etc. to interchange with our daily rice, is also a solid idea needing attention. The president is not saying that our country does not grow cassava, plantains, yams to name a few of the potential staple foods, he is implying that, although all these foods are in the country but, the country needs to emphasize or grow them in abundance. What obtains at the moment is they grow only in backyards, in small plots to satisfy our cravings, they are not farmed in large quantities for daily consumption. All I say God speed this correct agriculture life saving policy.
President Bio is saying all the right things about agriculture/farming. It’s also worthy of note that he is in the business too and encouraging members of his administration to do the same. In order for any policy on farming to become successful the President must become a hands-on leader. Every now and then money comes from somewhere in the millions to boost agriculture in the country but nothing seems to budge. The nation wants to see ploughing machines, tractors and other equipment swamping the farming landscape . There is nothing we lack except tenacity and willpower guided by sound policies which are dynamic and adaptive.
Has President Bio ever paid any attention to graduating students in agriculture who have some land for agriculture? These are the people people a well thought out policy should target with loans and grants with a guaranteed price for their products. Once they realise how much money they can make they will stick to it and start seeing an office as too boring and repetitive. Others are bound to follow. President Bio should know that many policies fail because people entrusted with their implementation are the worst “ayampies “ on record. When funds flow into their hands the first thing they think of is how to siphon ninety percent of it into their bank account to build mansions and buy the most expensive car in a series.
Maada Bio should become less trusting and firmly place himself on deck – in the thick of the fray. He should not even trust his chief minister who is on record actively soliciting corruption. If he must delegate he should look for people like the suspended Right Honourable Ngevao who exposed corruption in Parliament. Right Honourable Ngevao should be celebrated by President Bio to foster credibility in his fight against corruption.
Thank you very much Mr President for taking part of the C4C agenda and making it a priority. Sierra Leone needs to deviate from a mining based Economy to an Agro based economy. Deny or Argue. By doing so, you will easily reinstate the permit control system in the diamond areas and kick out those boring and unscrupulous businesses men, women and companies out of those districts. What is wrong with that? Also, our country will become self sufficient in food production. Even if they implement the entire C4C Manifesto, we are going to kick their butts out in 2023. Thank you very much Mr President for photocopying the C4C agenda. Did I hear someone say “Spider Jackson” or “Long Throat”? God bless the C4C agenda and manifesto. Amen and Amen.
Once upon a time, Uganda fed on rice until the government stopped importing the grain. Today that country’s staple food is banana, UUGALI (pounded banana) grown by every household, nationwide. Good stuff when accompanied by LWAMBO (goat soup or what you will! Daily meals consist of a combination of cassava, potato and yam.
Sierra Leone is blessed with one of the best arable lands in the world yet, most people are going to bed hungry. Agriculture should have been the first priority of any administration. Many people abandoned farming for the cities where they spend their lazy days looking for handouts. What a change in direction.
The administration, inorder to win the war on hunger, should encourage unemployed and able bodied people to return to the provinces to engage in farming. Those already in the villages should be encouraged to participate in this exercise to feed themselves instead of waiting for food from overseas. Initially, the administration should help financially in relocating most of those who are willing to go back to their farmlands.
Even the college educated while waiting for the next government job, would be well served to do some farming. It sure will look good on the resume. There is no greater civic responsibility and pride than ones contribution to the wellbeing of the populace. So, let’s heed prresident Bio’s clarion call to return to the glory days when we used to feed ourselves. Let’s bring back the SLPMB and the railway
Majority of countries that are developed, or have embark on the road to development, have crucially managed to feed themselves firsts, before they think of other ideas of how to develop their country. The Chinese communist government knew this back in the mid sixties to the early seventies, when they launched the cultural revolution. If a population of more than billion people can feed themselves, and still manage to export their rice to our country, you got ask yourself Where did we go wrong? A nations that can’t feed itself is doom. And a Hungry man is an angry man. That’s is why the vast majority of our fellow countrymen are always angry.
Their government have failed to invest in rural communities that depend on small scale farming and help them to enhance their farming methods, to become more productive . Give them the land, the money, the tools, the good roads, the warehouses, and above all else the expert training. Put everyone on notice that the country will put a stop to rice imports in two to three years time. Hunger, is dangerous and damaging to the human body, especially to children which reduces their potential growth. Like every Sierra-Leonean Bio is well versed about the lack of food sufficiency, but like a true Sierra Leonean, has always paid lip service to the problem. The problem is not the people but is the leadership in the country. I wonder if this announcement is just one of his headline grabbing gimmick projects.