Agriculture including forestry and fisheries is the backbone of the economy and the main source of livelihoods in Sierra Leone. It employs about 70% – 75% of the active labour force and contributed close to 50% of the country’s economic GDP in 2017.………………………….
(Turmabum, Southern Province – 11th June, 2021) His Excellency Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio has on Saturday, 11th June 2021 launched the 31.4 Million USD Regional Rice Value Chain Project in Turmabum, Southern Sierra Leone.
His Excellency fully assured that achieving food security through sustainable agriculture remains a national agenda for ending hunger and starvation and boosting the country’s human capital development index.
While making a keynote address in the presence of locals, development partners, members of the diplomatic and consular corps, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and BADEA, His Excellency maintained that the project is designed to benefit over 7,000 women and youth farmers, along with 35,000 farming families. He continued on the note that the country has a vast arable land that is endowed with consistent rain fall and favourable weather conditions, yet we are still faced with challenges on the importation of rice largely due to the lack of sustainable agricultural investment plans over the years, as this has been triggering his government to spend hundreds of millions of USD every year in the importation of rice and other assorted food items into the country. He therefore said instead of taking short-cuts and populous agricultural interventions for political propaganda, his government has come up with a permanent fix – a long term solution that will strengthen the participation of the private sector and by extension cut down the huge revenue that government continue to spend to import rice into the country.
Vice President Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh who doubled as the chair-person for the occasion thanked IDB and BADEA for the timely support rendered to the country’s agricultural sector, affirming that the project is not only a national goal for the president and his government, but it is also a huge achievement for the country at large. He reassured that the anticipated outcome of the project will drastically save government revenue and cut down large scale importation of rice.
Minister of Agriculture and Forestry – Dr. Abubakarr Karim reaffirmed that the project will cater job opportunities for the locals, cut down the importation of rice, and compliment the country’s aspiration for food self-sufficiency by 2023.
While presenting certificates to farmers for their tremendous contributions into the agricultural sector, Dr. Karim also crowned President Bio as chief farmer and declared First Lady Fatima Bio as champion of agriculture.
Dr. Karim concluded by thanking all those present in this milestone occasion and encouraged the farmers and all private and non-private agricultural development partners to continue giving their full support to revive the agricultural sector.
Paramount Chief Alex Maada J.J Kainpumu 11 appreciated President Bio and his government for giving them the opportunity to host this special occasion. He assured that they would take ownership of the project to make sure that its desired benefit for the government and people of Sierra Leone is fully realised.
The Turmabum Rice Project is a 31.4 Million USD financed by the GoSL, IDB, and BADEA and is designed to benefit 5000 beneficiaries in Turmabum (Bonthe District), and 2000 beneficiaries in Samu and Mambolo (Kambia District) for a period of 5 years.
Women Farmer Based Organizations from the sixteen Agricultural Districts of Sierra Leone, has paid a courtesy call on the Deputy Minister II of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr. Theresa Teneh Dick to congratulate her for her Ministerial appointment and abreast her of their agricultural activities, success stories and challenges in the Sector.
Outlining their successes, Farmers explained that they contribute to about 70% of agricultural production, processing, value addition and marketing as well as rural job creation in the country.
The Women Farmers however lamented that they are challenged with the permanent acquisition of farmland, appropriate farm machinery and access to loan facilities among other things that will aid increased agricultural production and productivity in the country.
Discussing his Ministry’s National Agricultural Transformation Plan, the Chief Agricultural Officer, Mr Amara Idara Sheriff explained the Strategic Policy Shift which focuses on Private Sector Led Farm Mechanization through the establishment of Machine Rings and Farmer Service Centres, Agricultural Credit Facility to Private Sector Actors to import Seeds, Fertilizers and Agro Chemicals, an E – Voucher System to foster Efficiency , Transparency as well as Cost Reduction in Government Input Delivery and an E – Extension System to compliment the Extension Strategy to reach millions of farmers with information to help Decision Making, Boost Production and Income Generation. .
Welcoming and congratulating the women farmers for appreciating and bestowing confidence in her appointment as Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr. Theresa Teneh Dick assured them of her unflinching determination to ensure that Women Farmers benefit from all farmer support services provided by her Ministry, the Agricultural Projects and donor partners.
Dr. Theresa Teneh Dick explained that His Excellency the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Retired Brigadier Dr. Julius Maada Bio appointed her as Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry because of his confidence in the positive role women play in national development.
She entreated the Women Farmer Based Organizations to be focused and work in unison regardless of tribal, political and regional sentiments in order to benefit from the many available opportunities to transform the Agriculture Sector as the engine that propels national growth and development.
The Deputy Agriculture and Forestry Minister II, assured the Women Farmers that their challenges will be catalogued and discussed at management level with the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr. Abubakarr Karim, to proffer possible and lasting solutions.
The occasion was graced by the Offices of the Permanent Secretary, the Technical Advisory and Resource Mobilization Unit, the Agricultural Extension Services Division and the Smallholder Commercialization and Agribusiness Development Project and of the National Federation of Farmers of Sierra Leone.
In a bid to transform the Agricultural Sector in Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has embarked on strategic policy shifts aimed at increasing land under cultivation and boosting yields. These interventions/initiatives are focused on setting the enabling environment that promotes private sector investment in Agriculture, reduce inefficiencies in service delivery and protect smallholder farmers involved in agriculture……………………
About twelve months ago, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) embarked on a journey to transform the agriculture sector in line with H.E President Bio’s vision for a sector that attracts private commercial investment, is driven by innovation and mechanisation, creates jobs and sustainably feeds the people of Sierra Leone.
This past week, my team and I took two giant steps towards implementing this vision. First, On Thursday March 11th, 2021, MAF partnered with the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) to launch a hundred billion Leones (USD 10 million) Agriculture Credit Facility (ACF) to finance private sector participation in the sector. This facility will be accessed through commercial banks by agribusinesses to import or produce agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertiliser, and pesticides. As an incentive to the private sector, we negotiated an interest as low as 5%, compared to the going market rate in the mid-twenty percent. As a further guarantee to avoid crowding out the private sector, MAF will no longer directly procure and distribute agricultural inputs to farmers in the country. Instead, MAF will directly support registered vulnerable farmers through a smart subsidy program, which will be rolled out via an e-wallet system that farmers can redeem for inputs from agro-dealers across the country. In collaboration with the (Ministry of Finance, MAF will establish a Clearing House (an escrow account) worth sixty billion Leones (USD 6 million) to cash out e-wallet. This means stepping away from years of a government-led procurement process rife with inefficiency and corruption for the Ministry. The smart subsidy will attract private investors in the sector and lead to big wins for our farmers, who will benefit from cheaper, quality, and timely inputs. This approach also helps the government to reduce costs and opportunism in input delivery in the country.
Another equally exciting achievement for my team and I this week, was signing contracts with fourteen private operators to lease and manage fourteen Machine Rings across the country. This signing ceremony marked a new approach to promoting agriculture mechanisation. For the first time, the government makes 410 machines and implements worth Le 168 billion available to farmers through the private sector. Previous failed approaches relied heavily on government, farmer groups or private individuals that were not business-oriented. This new lease-to-own public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement is business-oriented, which is why each Ring operator will pay the government the full cost of the Ring by the end of the lease period. They are expected to build profitable businesses that will allow them to make annual payments to the government.
This mechanisation approach will rapidly put more lowland areas under rice cultivation and set us on a path to deliver on H.E President Bio’s Human Capital Development (HCD) target of 86% rice-self-sufficiency by the end of 2023. The Machine Ring concept also immediately creates jobs in the fourteen districts. We estimate creating about 820 jobs for machine operators, and additional hundreds linked to repairs and maintenance services. This will help reduce youth unemployment in rural areas. And perhaps most critically, this approach will be made sustainable by establishing an Agriculture Mechanisation Fund, resourced from machine operators’ annual payments. The private sector will access this Fund at a low-interest rate to replace machines and grow their fleet. The Fund will also be used to train and certify operators to support mechanisation growth in the country.
With the private sector leading in these critical areas, my job is made easier. I will be the fiercest advocate for our farmers, making sure quality service is delivered to them. For input provision, we have already placed the necessary policies and regulatory bodies to support this private sector shift, including The National Fertilizer Regulatory Agency Act 2018, The National Fertilizer Policy 2017, The Seed Policy 2017, and The Sierra Leone Seed Certification Agency Act 2018. For the Machine Rings, MAF will set up a cross-MDA and community level monitoring teams and use fleet management technology to ensure the private sector keeps its promise. We will also maintain the responsibility to provide agriculture advisory to our farmers, relying on digital technology to reach as many farmers as possible while keeping costs down.
The progress made so far is an excellent example of effective collaboration at all levels in the sector, including MDA, donors, the private sector, NGOs, and civil society. My leadership team is also grateful to the hardworking civil servants at MAF who have committed themselves to make H.E President Bio’s goals a reality and to help our farmers. Without their effort, we will not succeed. This work has also been supported by a team of technical advisors, including Advisors from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI), who has been working alongside Division Heads to get the policy shift’s technical pieces and delivery mechanisms right.
Let me be the first to say that these achievements, while significant, are only a component of what is needed to boost productivity in the sector. The sector still requires a lot more investments and many more bold and innovative programs. We will celebrate these successes today, but tomorrow we will roll our sleeves to tackle the next challenge segment-by-segment of each priority crop and livestock value chain in the country. With a mandate and support from H.E President Bio, my Ministry will not rest until we put into place other interventions that will support a true transformation in the sector.
***The author, Dr. Abubakarr Karim is the Acting Minister of Agriclture and Forestry (MAF)
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) through the Information Communication Technology Unit (ICT) has on Thursday 28th January 2021 shared data set inventories with the Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC) and various other MDAs on the advancements made so far in promoting equal and equitable access to information and data through ICT. This engagement was held at the Family Kingdom Resort, Aberdeen, Freetown.
While briefing the audience on the breakthroughs achieved thus far in creating an efficient and reliable web system that support speedy access to information and data, the contemporary enlightened and tech-savvy ICT Manager at MAF – Mr. Abubakarr Tamu expressed heartfelt welcome to all distinguished guests who participated in this momentous engagement. Mr. Tamu continued on the note that information is power and the right to know should be afforded to everyone through modern interactive ICT systems to promote good governance, accountability and transparency.
In addition to showcasing his Ministry’s ICT advancements to support the right to access information and data through a modern ICT system that has gained recognition from other MDAs, Mr. Tamu was very delighted to demonstrate to the audience that MAF has got a real-time website that captures all latest activities of the Ministry and the activities and scope of work of all MAF divisions and projects apart from providing up-to-date Market Data, Forestry Data, Project Monitoring Data, Farmers Data among various other relevant MAF data, adding that all of these data are readily available for public consumption and access through Ministry’s website that supports a 24/7 direct chat. He added that a modern website of this nature speaks volume about the Ministry’s commitment to support RAIC efforts to promote equal and equitable access to information and data for national development. He therefore recommended for a National Digital Agricultural Strategy, MAF GPS, while also calling on RAIC to collaborate with other MDAs to develop a national data architectural backbone.
Similar presentations were also done by Environment, Basic Education, Gender and Children Affairs and Health Ministries.
Giving a keynote address on this engagement, Acting Agriculture and Forestry Minister – Dr. Abubakarr Karim called on all other MDAs to see the need to promote equal access to information. Dr. Karim was particularly pleased about his ministry’s ICT advancements made so far in supporting RAIC call to promote equal and equitable access to information and data through real time ICT web systems. He therefore assured the gathering that his Ministry under the leadership of Mr. Tamu will continue to do more to promote speedy and reliable access to information and data through ICT.
The Right to Access Information Commission was established in 2010 by the Government of Sierra Leone to promote access to information and data while promoting accountability, good governance, and transparency.
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Agricultural Information and Communications Unit (AICU)
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF)
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(Port-Loko – 22nd January 2021) As the drive towards sustainable rice production continues to be a priority under the new direction administration, the ever-industrious, relentless and goal-oriented Acting Agriculture Minister – Dr. Abubakarr Karim has on Friday, 22nd January 2021, welcomed a small group of experts from South Africa to conduct a 230,000 hectare aerial land mapping and surveying exercises in Rhombe, Torma Bum and Komrabai Mamela in urgent preparations to kick start the $54 Million United Arab Emirates (UAE) – Funded Rhombe Rice Project. This welcoming ceremony was held at the Lungi International Airport.
While assuring that this aerial mapping and surveying exercises will provide a very credible and reliable data for proper irrigation systems, the system operator of the Diamond DA42 AMPP land surveying and mapping helicopter, Riann Heydenrych assured that the data generated from this exercise will be handed over to the Agriculture Ministry within the next three weeks as requested, after it would have been processed in South Africa. And as such, these data will be utilised for not only the Rhombe Rice Project, but it will also be adequately harnessed for future other large scale agricultural projects in the Port Loko District.
Acting Agriculture Minister expressed utter delight and contentment over this very laudable and expensive land mapping and surveying exercises. He continued by professing that this aerial land mapping and surveying speaks volume of his government’s commitment towards changing the agricultural narrative in this country. He strongly reassured that more exercises of this nature will be conducted in the future. Adding that every data gathered from each mapping and surveying exercise will be a step in the right direction for proper planning and implementation of all agricultural projects in the country.
Also when asked about how this project will benefit the government and people of Sierra Leone, Dr. Karim guaranteed that this project just like several other rice value chain agricultural projects in the country, will serve to cut down the over 250 Million USD Government annually spend to import rice, apart from creating over 2000 jobs for not just the indigenes of Port-Loko but also for the entire citizenry of Sierra Leone.
The Rhombe Rice Project is a direct foreign investment initiative pioneered by His Excellency Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio through the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. The project was initially launched by the vice president, Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh on the 14th December, 2020 at the Gbainti Walla and Lokomasama Chiefdoms, Port Loko District. Apart from providing over 20,000 metric tons of rice per harvest, the project will also focus on some other products like: onions, tomatoes and maize.
AGRICULTURAL INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS UNIT (AICU)
MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND FORESTRY (MAF)
As the drive for mechanized farming continue to yield dividend under the new direction: Rep. of China donated over 50 farm equipment to MAF
(Freetown: 17th December 2020) The Peoples Republic of China through Ambassador Hu Zhang Liang has handed over farm equipment worth over USD 30 Million to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) in what could be referred to as a timely intervention to compliment the effort of the government in achieving mechanized and sustainable agriculture. The handing over ceremony was held at the Agricultural Stores and Engineering Workshop at Kissy, Freetown.
While presenting the farm equipment which include; 1 Rice Trans Planter, 1 Rice Harvester, 17 set of 15 HP Power-Tillers, 11 set of Rice Haulers, 9 set of combined Rice Mills, 2 set of Rice Destoner, 21 set of Rice Threshers and 15 set of manual Rice Winnower to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Hu Zhang Liang stated that China with a population of over 1 billion people is able to feed itself through sustainable and mechanized agricultural initiatives. He strongly maintained that through the diplomatic ties between the two countries, China is very committed to providing such assistance to the government of Sierra Leone through MAF which is championing the country’s determination to achieving food self-sufficiency by 2023. He therefore called on the government and all private sector agricultural development partners to mount a concerted effort to ensure that these equipment are utilized for the right purpose as China is also ready to provide technical assistance to the process.
In an applauding response to the assistance provided by the People’s Republic of China, the Acting Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Abubakarr Karim affirmed the government continued commitment to strengthening and upholding the diplomatic relationship between Sierra Leone and the People’s Republic of China. He continued by thanking Ambassador Zhang Liang for spearheading such a laudable gesture which is wholeheartedly appreciated by the government and people of Sierra Leone as such an assistance shows that the relationship between Sierra Leone and the People’s Republic of China is very cordial and that Sierra Leone is moving in the right direction. He therefore proclaimed that these equipment together with all other existing agricultural equipment will be managed under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) which will justify their rightful purposes and targeted beneficiaries.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) has on Friday 30th October 2020 engaged key agricultural private sector players on the need to popularize MAF policy shifts and to obtain their feedback in efforts to strategically plot the roadmap for effective policy design and implementation of these policy shifts. The engagement was held at the Golden Tulip Auditorium, Aberdeen Freetown.
Giving a keynote address on the Ministry’s policy shifts, the Acting Minister of Agriculture and Forestry- Abubakarr Karim maintained the robust effort of the government of Sierra Leone through MAF in revamping the agricultural sector. He particularly applauded the unshaking patronage shown so far by the Private Sector in changing the trajectory of the agricultural sector in Sierra Leone. He furthered that the need to popularize the Ministry’s policy shifts is very timely as the country’s agricultural sector has over the years been deprived of the attention it needs largely due to lack of access to finance, inadequate equipment for mechanised farming, lesser-private sector involvement, improper infrastructure among other challenges which have enormously contributed to crippling the country’s agricultural sector. He strongly acknowledged the importance of agriculture as he affirmed that over 90% of the Sierra Leonean population get their living from Agriculture. And that also, the sector constitutes 57% of the country’s total GDP. He concluded on His Excellency the president Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio’s pledge made during the State Opening of Parliament to rebrand the narrative of the country’s agricultural sector through a presidential-led initiative which has already facilitated the procurement of 250 tractors, and is about to secure a $50 Million funding from the Bank of Sierra Leone to popularize key policy shifts on: input delivery, mechanization and agricultural investment. He therefore called on all private sector investors to help in the implantation of these policy shifts.
Contributing on the Ministry’s Policy Shifts, the Financial Secretary at the Ministry of Finance (MOF) – Sahr Jusu and the deputy Bank Governor at the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) – Dr. Ibrahim Lahai Stevens registered the government’s unflinching commitment through the MOF and BSL in supporting the agricultural sector. The Financial Secretary furthered on the note that; through these policy shifts MOF will work in concert with both the Bank of Sierra Leone and the World Bank to roll out quick action financial mechanisms that will benefit the agricultural sector in terms of providing lower interest loans to farmers, E-vouchers systems and farm service centres, etc.
The engagement was climaxed by some key private sector players who reaffirmed their dedication to help the Ministry’s effort in implementing these policy shifts. But they however called on the government to put the interest of the people above all else in the rolling out of these policy shifts.
Agricultural Information and Communications Unit
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
The Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Forestry has on Wednesday 4th October 2020 engaged the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) to assess and evaluate the programs and activities of the Ministry in an aspiration to determine their promptness in moving forward the agricultural sector. The meeting was held at the ministry’s main conference hall, Youyi Building Freetown.
Giving an update on the Ministry’s programs and activities thus far, the Acting Minister of Agriculture and Forestry – Dr. Abubakarr Karim expressed his utmost estimation to the parliamentary oversight committee for spearheading such a productive engagement. He furthered on the note that; agriculture remains key priority under the new direction – for which he said through a concerted effort with the private sector and all other agricultural development partners, the Ministry has been able to implement vigorous agricultural policies which have made it possible for the sector to score significant goals including but not limited to the rehabilitation and maintenance of 162km of feeder roads in 6 districts, establishment of the Sierra Leone Agribusiness Development Fund (SLADF) with 16 agribusinesses being supported with an average of about $300,000, supported Njala University to conduct National Soil Survey, contracted the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI) to establish 15Ha of cocoa seeds in the Pendembu and Kpuwabu Research Stations with elite cocoa materials – all of these are among several other development indicators met by the ministry, he maintained . He added that; the Ministry is working relentlessly to bring to reality agricultural projects that would target the areas on; Rapid Onion Production, National Inland Valley Swamps (IVS) Tree Crops and Rice Production. He however lamented that regardless of all these successes scored so far, the Ministry is still faced with challenges on the areas of; limited access to agricultural financing largely due to limited and irregular government budgetary allocation, insufficient mobility to provide extension service, high demand for limited available machinery and limited private sector involvement. But he strongly reassured the Parliamentary Oversight Committee that all or some of these challenges would be addressed by the recently popularised Agricultural policy shifts which target to address age-old problems on Agricultural mechanization, Agricultural Input Delivery, Agricultural Financing and Agricultural Advisory.
In a response to the activities of the Ministry, the Chairman for the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, Mr. Salliue Osman Sesay said he is elated to learn about the latest developments under the Ministry. He reassured the Ministry about their commitment to supporting the agricultural sector through a speedy facilitation of adequate budgetary allocation. He added also that; as part of the challenges faced by the Ministry, the committee will support the efforts of the ministry to ensure that a 5% of the country’s total GDP is allocated to the production of rice in the country. He however cautioned that; the Policy Shifts of the Ministry should be diligently implemented so they could serve their right purposes.
The engagement was climaxed courtesy of concerns raised by other members from the Parliamentary Oversight Committee who called on the Ministry to double up their efforts at every level of policy implementation. They entreated the ministry to pay keen attention to the policy shifts, especially the policy shift on Mechanization which is to be implemented under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) to manage the 250 tractors the government through MAF has procured.
Agricultural Information and Communications Unit.
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry