Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 September 2019:
Last year, reading his State opening of parliament address, president Julius Maada Bio called on politicians and public servants in the country to take up farming, alongside their official public duty so as to help address food shortage facing the nation and boost export.
Few have heeded that call, including the president himself who was seen recently on his farm in the south of the country, preparing the land for sowing.
Sierra Leone spends over $200 million a year on the importation of rice alone, and by 2024 this could rise to almost $400 million – a significant drain on the country’s foreign exchange earnings.
According to the latest Integrated Household Survey (SLIHS) Report, in 2018, over fifty-six percent of Sierra Leoneans suffer from food poverty.
Sierra Leone must therefore increase its investment in farming and food production to meet the growing needs and acute shortage of its staple food – rice, if it is to avert mass hunger and malnutrition.
Meet Habib Bakarr Munda, he was a member of Sierra Leone Parliament representing Constituency 017 in the Kenema district. He is one of the few current and former parliamentarians and public servants that has responded to president Bio’s call for action.
He has taken up largescale farming in his home town to help Sierra Leone meet its food requirements, as well as exporting that could contribute to an increase in government revenue.
Last week, the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph, caught with Habib (Photo) to talk about his farming business. This is what he said:
Sierra Leone Telegraph (SLT): Honourable Munda, we have not spoken in a while, what are you up to?
Habib Bakarr Munda (HBM): Hello Abdul, yes it has been quite some time. I am busy doing rice and tree crop production in my village in Douju, which is eight miles from our chiefdom headquarter town of Blama, hence my silence.
SLT: So why have you gone into farming?
HBM: There is profit in all hard work, especially that of being a farmer. Endless talk without translated actions and vision, leads to continuous poverty. Any form of hard work, most cases leads to success. More so when combined with God’s grace.
My message to all public servants and politicians is this: Why don’t you become a farmer; your efforts will not go in vain neither become a fruitless endeavour.
God loves diligent workers, and farmers are included. We produce food and provide for a healthy population in our urban towns and cities.
As working farmers of our beloved country, we must continue to commit everything within our reach to transform our efforts into livelihood and create jobs for our population, and future generation.
We have wasted so much time over the years relying on outside wisdom, approaches, and engaging in fruitless strategies that does not feed our families, communities and country.
We should now focus our attention to home-made best agricultural practices and innovations, that can produce food to fight against hunger, meet our food security needs, promote healthy nutrition, and create jobs for our hungry unemployed youths.
One such local initiatives among the many, should be to develop a new crop of local farmers to provide the necessary leadership at rural community level, that will drive local economic and social development through social capital formation.
This will create and provide resilience for our post-conflict development as a nation state; and at the same time, serve as a wealth creation platform for the majority of citizens who can never find employment in the public sector.
My advice for every farmer in Sierra Leone as a call of hope, is to please continue to do your bit by increasing your inputs on your farms so that you can feed your family and the nation, as well as export to other countries.
Focus your daily farm work on the use of better farming methods, applications and innovations; make good use of available agro-business opportunities and pathways; create better living conditions for your family and your community; and adopt sustainable farming methods that improve quality of life and take better care of our rural farming environment and eco-system.
Trust in yourself and our good God with all your heart; and lean not only on your own understanding but submit it into the hands of our good LORD.
SLT: So what have you achieved so far in establishing your farming enterprise?
HBM: I have registered a company called Douju Agricultural Development (DAD) Project – Sierra Leone Co. Ltd., with the ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the Kenema District council.
It is owned by me and my children and some other family members, with the aim of paying back my home village, after taking a break from public life to help fight against hunger, contribute to enhancing the nation’s food security, and produce food that will improve nutrition; help the government of Sierra Leone and its development partners in tackling deforestation in our country.
Our core activity is to grow over 1000 acres of rubber plantation. We are currently nursing more than 100,000 seedlings as you can see from the pictures of the seed beds.
We are collaborating with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to develop and grow 250 acres of Inland valley Swamp (IVS) on a crop rotational basis.
We have already done our transplanting exercise (seen in photos) with improved rice seedlings: Nerica and other seed types from Ghana and Senegal through MAF, Sakata Seeds and AgriPlus, in preparation for our rice production intervention come December 2019 for a period of five years.
Alongside these activities, we are growing over 300 acres of cocoa, coffee under brushing and oil palm.
Currently, we employ 10 local people, and we will be hiring up to 100 by close of 2020/21 farming season, when our work load is expected to expand.
My son Junior Munda is planting improved silica cassava cuttings in our upland rice farm for expanded Cassava cultivation of 200 acres, which started in March 2019. Our improved rice seedlings has already been transplanted at our seed multiplication site.
Reintroducing vegetable garden practices as a means of livelihood in Douju village, is a project led by Habibatu Safula Munda, an economist from Fourah Bay College.
SLT: So what is your vision?
HBM: Our Vision is to generate a new crop of local farmer’s leadership at rural community level for a transformational socio-economic and rural community development initiatives through better farming skills, knowledge and techniques; better business opportunities on agro-business pathways; and better living conditions in the rural farming environment.
Our mission is to call the attention of rural farmers on food and tree crops production opportunities to fight against hunger, secure food and nutrition value-chains as a livelihood means for farming families at rural community level, and to promote Government of Sierra Leone’s efforts and its development partners towards afforestation initiatives for a better living conditions in the rural farming environment.
SLT: Thank you Mr Munda and good luck in your farming venture.