Cyril Barnes: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 November 2018:
“To attain food sufficiency, all leadership hands must be on deck.” Mrs Fatima Bio – wife of the president of Sierra Leone, is demonstrating her commitment to the attainment of food sufficiency in Sierra Leone, by establishing a 200-acre farm in Masiaka, in the Northern Province. The farm grows cash crops for market.
What President Bio once said in the well of Parliament – that all ministers and institutional heads should embark on farming, is now being zestfully translated into action by the First Lady.
Hailing the First lady as a “talk and do First Lady”, the people of Masiaka – especially women, are appreciative of her selfless ‘can do’ attitude.
The “let it shine” personality is focused on ensuring that her husband’s vision to transform Sierra Leone into a food self-sufficient nation, becomes a reality.
Fatima believes that through farming, a trail can be created for people to follow in pursuit of economic diversification, which means Sierra Leone not relying heavily on the mining sector but also concentrating on other areas such as agriculture, is realised.
The ready-to-work First Lady is challenging the claim that Sierra Leone doesn’t have capacity to grow her own food.
She truly believes that Sierra Leone can reach food sufficiency, if everyone – not only the people, but government Ministers and Heads of Departments and Agencies, can put hands on deck.
What is welcoming is her total disregard for regional and ethnic divides. The farm is established in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone, demonstrating the First Lady’s commitment to making sure that no district is left behind in the fight to attain food security.
She believes that the Northern Province is as important as the other provinces and is a key actor in the strive to achieving sustainable development.
The First lady said: “This is not a time for politicking; it’s not also a time we should start thinking about where to position a development project. This is the time we must work with concerted effort to realise our development dreams. We must be in readiness to pay attention to things that are important, as politics will only divide our nation instead of uniting it.”
A key objective in establishing the farm is to inspire women to rise up and face the food self-sufficiency challenge.
Mrs Bio believes that women empowerment can best be realised through agriculture. Women said, can play a focal role in the economic development of Sierra Leone.
Drawing examples from Thailand and China, she noted that women must be in the driving seat in the attainment of food sufficiency – not simply as traders, but as farm owners.
The First Lady said: “This farm will serve a source of empowerment for the women in this community and the women in all communities in Sierra Leone.
“My aim is not to score political points, but to let women know that they must not only be servants in the kitchen but also major players in boosting our economy by embarking on agriculture.
“Agriculture is life. Therefore, we must make every reasonable effort to save life by engaging in food production. We have rich soil, enough sunshine and rain to achieve food sufficiency. So, we must take advantage of the blessings God has given us. We must defeat the purpose of rice and other food related imports by growing our crops and feeding ourselves,” she said.