President Bio launches the long anticipated Torma Bum rice farming project

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 June 2021:

On Friday, 11th June 2021, President Dr Julius Maada Bio launched the Sierra Leone Regional Rice Value Chain Project in Torma Bum, in the Bonthe District of southern Sierra Leone, where he emphasised that food security is probably the most critical pillar in achieving the government’s human capital development priorities for the country.

He told locals, development partners and members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps, the Islamic Development Bank and BADEA present at the event that a well-nourished child or adult could stay healthy, live well, learn, fend for himself or herself and live a reasonably good quality of life.

“This project directly benefits 7,000 women and youth farmers, along with 35,000 farming families who are growing rice on 35,000 hectares of farmlands in the project locations. I am informed that the beneficiary identification and selection process was above board and merit-based.”

The President also noted that because the country did not produce sufficient food for its population, the government had increasingly spent hundreds of millions of dollars every year to procure food from the world market.

He added that a huge chunk of the country’s foreign reserves that could have been spent on education and healthcare among other urgent priorities for a developing nation, ended up being spent on importing increasingly expensive food items.

“In our governance assessment for our 2018 Manifesto and in our Medium-Term National Development Plan, we committed to working toward increasing the domestic production of food to significantly take care of our domestic needs and to ensure that the food produced domestically was available, affordable, and nutritious.

“We, therefore, decided on a well-thought-out, well-designed, well-implemented, and sustainable solution. We can transform our vast arable lands into massive food production centres and thus make our nation rice/food self-sufficient and also food and nutrition secure,” he said.

President Bio thanked the Islamic Development Bank and BADEA for examining his government’s plan, identifying with the objectives of their commitments, and sharing their aspiration to work towards domestic food self-sufficiency.

Vice President Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, who chaired the event, said that the project is not only a dream come true for the President and his New Direction government but also a huge milestone for the country.

He said at its full operational capacity the project would minimise the large scale importation of rice into the country and reduce cost on government, adding that the President made no mistake when he decided to invest in rice production and other food produce and made agriculture his top priority.

Paramount Chief Alex Maada J.J. Kainpumu II thanked President Bio for the opportunity he gave his community to host the launch of such a huge project, adding its the first time any President and his wife the First Lady, the Vice President have visited the chiefdom together and in one day.

He also assured of his people’s commitment to the project and promised that they will take it very seriously for the good of the country.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Abu Bakarr Karim, reiterated that the project will provide job opportunities for the people and said he looks forward to exporting and easing the burden on government’s spending on food import.

The minister also proclaimed President Bio as ‘farmer-in-chief’ because of his tremendous support for the agricultural sector and declared the First Lady – an ‘agriculture champion’.

The minister also recognised and presented certificates to farmers for their outstanding achievements in the agriculture sector and encouraged them to continue the good work.

This is the full statement delivered by president Bio:

“Let me first welcome and thank our development partners, the Islamic Development Bank, and BADEA. You have been consistent partners on this journey; you have shared our views; planned with us, and today is the day for implementing those ideas we have developed together. Thank you for your presence; thank you for your support.

Food security is a central pillar among our human capital development priorities as a nation, if not the most critical. A well-nourished child or adult can stay healthy, live well, learn, fend for himself or herself, and live a reasonably good quality of life.

We came into governance to low levels of food security, even though we have vast stretches of arable land in this country, consistent rainfall and rivers, and fairly even weather conditions. The price of our staple food, rice, has not been stable and consistent on the world market. There had been no well-thought-out and sustainable investments in the agriculture sector. Food insecurity therefore persisted.

Instead of taking short-term populist actions and granting massive import subsidies at the detriment of the economy or pronouncing an overnight reduction in the price of a bag of rice for political propaganda purposes, we decided to think very closely about a permanent fix.

Because we do not produce sufficient food for our population, we have increasingly spent hundreds of millions of dollars every year to procure food from the world market. Clearly, we are left at the detriment of the world food market as a result. Besides, a huge chunk of our foreign reserves that could have been spent on education and healthcare, among other urgent priorities for a developing nation, end up being spent on importing increasingly expensive food items.

The situation is even more complicated when production capacity and supply chains are hit hard by shocks such as COVID-19, climate change disasters, and other economic shocks in food-exporting nations. The prices of food change shoot upward on the world market. These price shocks are not good for food security, not good for the quality of life of our citizens, not good for our communities, and not good for the economy of the nation as a whole.

In our governance assessment for our 2018 Manifesto and in our Medium-Term National Development Plan, we committed to working toward increasing the domestic production of food to significantly take care of our domestic needs and to ensure that the food produced domestically was available, affordable, and nutritious.

We, therefore, decided on a well-thought-out, well-designed, well[1]implemented, and sustainable solution. We can transform our vast arable lands into massive food production centres and thus make our nation rice/food self-sufficient and also food and nutrition secure.

So let me once more thank the Islamic Development Bank and BADEA for examining our plan, identifying with the objectives of our commitments, and sharing our aspiration to work towards domestic food self-sufficiency. Essentially, we made a simple decision: to put whatever money we could garner where our mouths are.

So, I am, therefore, very delighted to be here to launch the Sierra Leone Regional Rice Value Chain Project (SL-RRVCP). As with everything we do as a Government, we have been very intentional in our planning so that when once we deliver this solution, it will be sustainable and long-lasting.

Traditional subsistence farming of low-yield seeds in small plots will not lead to domestic food sufficiency. The answer is in increased mechanisation and larger acreage yields, more access to input, more advanced farming techniques, and more agriculture financing that expands private sector investments in agriculture. So, we have put a number of things in place.

We have made the ecosystem for farming more conducive: a. We have purchased 410 agricultural machinery and more than 2,000 items of relevant implements; b. We have set up agricultural service centres, called Machine Rings, in fourteen (14) agricultural districts in the country, and made the agricultural machinery and the implements available to the private sector and to provide machinery services to farmers at competitive rates. Our Machine Ring system is supporting poor farmers who cannot afford machinery and chiefdom youth rice farm projects. c. My Government has also revised the decades-old policy and practice of the public sector being responsible for procuring and distributing fertilizers and seeds to farmers. The private sector is now responsible for that. d. In order to strengthen the participation of the private sector, Government, through the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank, has ring-fenced $50million to support private sector investments in agriculture.

By increasing the domestic production of rice, we could free up foreign exchange that will support our human capital development priorities in education, health, and in other aspects of agriculture and agribusiness.

This project directly benefits 7,000 women and youth farmers, along with 35,000 farming families who are growing rice on 35,000 hectares of farmlands in the project locations. I am informed that the beneficiary identification and selection process was above board and merit-based.

We decided so because we want to make agriculture more attractive to young people and women. We have established youth farms across the country to get greater participation and buy-in from youth. Agriculture is a source of wealth-creation.

The Project’s operation sites are in Bum Chiefdom in Bonthe district in the South; and Mambolo and Samu Chiefdoms in Kambia District. There are prospects for expanding rice-value-chain development into other parts of this very fertile country. Other regions can therefore participate in this national food security project and reap the associated socio-economic benefits.

Already Bum Chiefdom is involved in mechanised farming. Our Government is not the Government that grew rice in reports or on the radio. We grow rice in the fields and harvest it.

Added to this project that we are unveiling today as described by previous speakers, my Government launched the Rhombe rice cultivation project by Elite Agro that will put 30,000 hectares under cultivation.

My Government is determined to stay fully involved with this project and its goals. We will work with partners to further expand operations, irrigate and drain larger areas for cultivation, bring in more investments, and expand domestic food production in Sierra Leone.

With those few words, I now formally launch the Sierra Leone Regional Rice Value Chain Project. I thank you for your kind attention.”

6 Comments

  1. A Coup plotter that has spilled the blood of the innocent is a Minister of God huh? And which God exactly are we talking about here? Are you referring to the maleficent deities of the SLPP demonic occult shrines where those who seek for money, fame and power are commanded to bathe themselves from head to toe with the blood of harmless, vulnerable, timid innocent people? Is that the ‘gods’ you are here talking about? No? Or maybe its the ‘gods’ of SLPP Witch doctors and Juju priests made of clay and stone, that is wrapped up and embroidered in strands of fibre made from filthy Raffia palm leaves and mephitic slimy sea shells that give off a suffocating, noxious stench that originate and emanates directly from the reeky depths of hell. (lol)

    A Minster of the God that created the Universe doesn’t trample on the rights of others, neither does he seize and subdue the weak in his iron grips like an eagle its prey; Our President, who is also your President and my President has already set a dark precedent for others to emulate in the fight against rampant robberies, corruption, incompetence and thefts in Sierra Leone, my only precious home. In my good book of evaluating Progress, his efforts are worth less than a nickel.Live with that! (lol)

  2. “When God ordain he sustains”. My president, your president our president Dr Julius Maada Bio, president of the republic of Sierra Leone is an ordained minister of God. He came to power with the plan to help solve the numerous problems that were destroying Sierra Leone as a nation and to bring hope to Sierra Leoneans both home and abroad.

    Despite all the criticism, obstructionism and cynicism yet he remain steadfast with the Lord. Thank you God for sustaining your servant, my president, your president our president Dr.Julius Maada Bio. The challenges seem to be enormous, but I know that someday you will prove his critics wrong. May God bless our country, the land that we love Sierra Leone.

  3. “This project directly benefits 7,000 women and youth farmers, along with 35,000 farming families who are growing rice on 35,000 hectares of farmlands in the project locations. I am informed that the beneficiary identification and selection process was above board and merit-based.” – President Bio. I will bet my last cent, this is purely a political gimmick as we draw close to election year. President Bio does not believe a single word in what he said at this occasion, nor is he convinced that he can drag us out of the current food shortage and the many other quagmires that he and his predecessors have plunged the country into. President Bio was elected in 2018. Agriculture was one of the key issues in his 2018 manifesto. In 2019 he was given over 34 Million dollars by the World Bank to kick start rice production in the same Bonthe district and Kambia district. In the same 2019, he signed a deal worth over 217 Million dollars with a Turkish company to invest in rice production in Bonthe district.

    We are in 2021 close to the campaigns starting officially (he is already in campaign mood), and you see the show of political gimmick in full display. Why would members of the diplomatic community waste their precious time to go to such places where it is nothing but political campaign for a president who has wasted the most productive years (three years) of his presidency? Look at banners and dance troops in the photo that were on display at the occasion, and you need not be told anything more other than that it was a crowd show by the failed president and his wife. I feel sorry for Dr. Juldeh Jalloh who by virtue of his position has to be dragged to the occasion for a Photoshoot. The looks on the president face in that photo tells you that he himself is not convince as to what he was doing there, and was not comfortable being at the place least somebody in the crowd dare ask him about the 34 Million dollars he had received for the same project in 2019 (almost three years ago). Look at the links below to prove that the president did receive the said amounts three years ago:

    https://www.thesierraleonetelegraph.com/turkish-investors-sign-275-million-sierra-leone-rice-farming-deal/

    https://www.thesierraleonetelegraph.com/34-million-west-african-project-supports-rice-farming-in-bonthe-and-kambia-districts/

    The Turkish programme did not go through because the president wanted his PaoPa people to lead the projects and the investors were weary of their money. I wish we have journalists who do a constantly and continuous follow-up on issues like this. These people need to be persistently asked questions about monies they had received for critical projects that they have not implemented or haphazardly implemented. It is one thing to grumble after the fact but it is far better to hold people accountable when the issue is still at play, so as to salvage the monies received in behalf of the country, than wait after the fact. I say journalists because they can be heard more and they have platforms to echo out issues. This facade should stop!

  4. Thanks to my mentor and brother from different parents, for lecturing us with his brilliant and eloquent statements. Mr. A.A. Jalloh, believe it or not, I always benefit from your writing, thanks bro. Our main problem in Africa is, we are not personate period. Let me say this to public folks, since we started having our close relatives abroad during and after the civil war, receiving loads of dollars, pound sterling and Euro, what our people used to do in farming then everything slows down and collapsed. Even the Agric studies diminished in schools and colleges, now you will find out that most of our brothers and sisters now studying the most easiest subjects, like commerce because everybody wants work in bank, We don’t want to do hard work anymore.

    Thank you Mr. President, your Excellency is introducing a brighter example to the nation that, living in the state house is not a right but a privilege, the people voted him in there, and will vacate it one day. Storing something for the entire family after his retirement, he won’t be depending on anyone, and will wash off his hands out of politics, once and for all. Again, Mr. Jalloh thank you for your educative articles today. Stay tune.

    • Thanks Mr Brima Sesay for your observation . As Sierra Leoneans, we have to work collectively,as one people, one country, and under one Green, White, and Blue flag to move our country forward and build it up where we all want it to be.To be stand up and be counted as a leading embodiment of what it means in working together, as one people, one country in a divided African continent.To be a beacon of hope in a continent full of hopelessness, and despair. With good, and committed leadership , our country should be the shinning lights on top of the mountain, where all African countries are struggling to reach. We are all supporters of SIERRA LEONE UNITED, encompassing everthing and everyone. No Sierra Leoneans should be left behind, as we struggle for our second emancipation. All ideas, and contributions are welcome.

      I think everyone of us want to see massive changes in the way our country and the way it is run, and developed . With the best of intentions, I honestly believe every Sierra-leoneans will be proud of their country, been counted amongst the nations of world as high income country, not as leading beggars for international financial assistance or rely solely on aid funding. To that end we need to tackle corruption, tribalism, regionalism, and make use of our God given natural resources. We shouldn’t be seen as basket case in the African continent, but a bread basket, that produce enough to feed ourselves, and exporting the rest to rice eating countries.That is why it baffled all of us about the levels of poverty in our country. There iscno excuse for it. For some unforseen reasons, once our politicians gets elected, they found themselves wrestling with decisions, that in the face of it, easy to make.

      You either go with with the mantra, if you can’t beat them, join them. So you will find the way our institution are set up, with opaques by the scenes deals, and lacking transparency, and accountability, it is easy to remove the pope’s or Mother Teresa’s personality, and join the cult of corrupt public officials. However there are few exception. People like Dr Blyden, and Mayor Akin Swayer. Now you can ascuse this two politicians of every thing under the sun, but you will never asscue them of stealing from the public. Which goes to show, not all politicians in Sierra Leone are clinically Corrupt. Rather it is a choice rather than force upon our corrupt politicians. Unless and until we address this cancer in our society, we will be celebrating less of this sort of investment in the agricultural sector. Because monies allocated for this sort of development projects, to improve the standard of living for every one, is end at the bank balance of corrupt government ministers, and civil servants.

  5. Investing in food security is vital for any country wanting to develop. Yes Bio is right in saying, governments spend millions of dollars in importing our staple food rice. But if we as a country is smart enough, and work collectively as one people, as the saying goes, there is power in numbers there is nothing stopping us achieving security as a long-term solution to foot shortage. According to the United Nations’ committee on food security, “means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.” To the curious onlooker, looking at Bio and his side kick in chief VP Juldeh Jalloh, hitching a ride on a farming tractor, is not what get me thinking about far this two leaders are serious about ensuring their government policy on agriculture, will ensure a long term sustainability on food security, but is this recycled photo opportunity, our country has been treated to by this failed government.

    Amongst other things that caught my eye is the fertile soil, the dark clouds forming high above the sky, and the locals, that are ready to put in the work. If there is one people that deserve this sort of project, is the people of Torma Bum, in the Bonthe District. This fellow Sierra Leoneans in the Southern part of Sierra Leone, is amongst our poorest of our poor in the country. Sherbro Island, Kailahun district, Pujehun district, are one of the most neglected areas in terms of roads, health care, and educational opportunities for their young. When it comes to governments investments, they are always at the back of the queue. Even though Bio is from that part of the country, the people in the south are dissatisfied with his performance. He has been a complete failure in terms of delivering of services. Hopefully this is the start of a new contract with the country and the people of Sierra Leone.

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