Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 July 2020:
The World Bank Board of Executive Directors, on Tuesday approved a $30 million International Development Association (IDA) grant to support agricultural productivity and access to markets for smallholder farmer-agribusiness in Sierra Leone.
According to the World Bank; “This additional financing for the Smallholder Commercialization and Agribusiness Development Project (SCADeP) will enable the project to invest in roads and bridges to improve connectivity, thereby providing access to more remote areas of high agricultural production.
“Specifically, it will help build critical bridges across key river crossing points currently served by manual cable ferries. These manual ferries are mostly out of service due to increasing risks of accidents particularly during the rainy season when water levels are high,” the statement reads.
Speaking about the funding, Gayle Martin – World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone said:
“The World Bank is focusing its interventions toward helping the agricultural sector recover quickly from the effects of COVID-19 and contribute toward higher medium- to long-term agricultural growth required to reduce poverty among smallholder farmers and promote inclusive growth. This project is aligned with the economic diversification and growth agenda of the Government.”
The statement says that smallholder farmers are the drivers of many economies and play an important role in promoting livelihoods and food security amongst the rural poor.
According to the World Bank, the additional financing is strengthening productive business linkages between farmers and selected agribusiness firms and other commodity off-takers. It builds on the results achieved by the project and will scale up the provision of improved seeds and fertilizers to increase farmers’ productivity.
So far, the SCADeP project has supported the rehabilitation and maintenance of 166 km of feeder roads and the construction of 192 culverts and 6 bridges, thereby providing year-round access to farms, markets, schools and health centers for 77 communities in nine districts across the country.
Average travel time on these roads has seen a significant reduction from 20min/km to about 2min/km. Another key accomplishment is a study to assess the agribusiness/out-grower landscape in Sierra Leone. This framework is serving as a guideline for the creation of effective and mutually beneficial long-term partnership arrangements between farmers, nucleus commercial farmers, agro-processors and exporters.
Since the atsrt of the COVID-19 pandemic and folowing the government’s appeal for interantional support to help cushion the impact of rhe pandemic on the country’s econbomic recovery after decades of poor growth, Sierra Leone has received more than $300 million of support.
It now remains to be seen whether the Bio-led government can create the necessary inclusive political and business friendly environment, that will enable businesses and industry to flourish, create jobs and drive economic growth and wealth creation.