Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 April 2021:
Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio today participated in a High-Level Virtual Dialogue on Leveraging Innovation and Technology for Food Systems Transformation in Africa.
The online meeting was organised by IFAD and co-hosted by the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), CGIAR and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, and was aimed at identifying ways to expand activities, financing and partnerships that will leverage innovation and technology to transform food systems in Africa.
The outcomes of the meeting will be shared with the Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome in July and at the Food Systems Summit in October 2021.
The organisers argued that the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting food security across Africa, “exasperating pre-existing impacts of climate change, rising fragility and conflict, and adverse events, such as locust invasions in East and Southern Africa. Africa must urgently strengthen its food systems as an integral part of efforts to recover from the pandemic and build resilience”.
In his opening statement, President Bio recognised the input of colleagues, and thanking Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of African Development Bank Group, Mr. Gilbert Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President & CEO, Dangote Group and his friend, and Tony Blair, Executive Chairman, Institute for Global Change, for an enlightening opening session.
He observed that shrinking economies all over the world and global supply chain disruptions have further aggravated foreign exchange constraints, adding that augmenting local food supplies is a challenge, given the new reality.
“These disruptions, therefore, leave us with three key questions: a) How do we cope with pre-existing challenges in the agriculture sector especially given COVID-19 disruptions? b) How do we cope with food supply and nutritional deficits, c) How do we plan new investments that can make our food systems more robust and more resilient?
“So, this meeting is very timely as we can share ideas and start thinking collectively about how to resolve some of these challenges and thus improve local food supplies, reduce import substitution, and create sustainable jobs for farmers including youth and women in rural areas.”
President Bio also said that in the last three years his Government has made good progress toward the CAADP commitment of allocating a minimum of 10% of the national budget to agriculture, adding that in 2018 the allocation was about 2.14% and progressed to 4.25% and 6.0 in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
He said the 2021 target is 7% and expected to increase over the next three years to support the new shift in policy.
“I have argued that science, technology, and innovation allow us to leapfrog in development. The same argument holds for agricultural production. To improve yield per acreage, Government research agencies and private actors are working to develop and make improved and adaptable seeds available to farmers,” President Bio said.