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)
For more Information call: +232 76 497412 / +232 78 409735
(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
The government of Sierra Leone has received a loan and a grant in the amount of US$34.12 million equivalent from the Islamic Development toward the cost of the Sierra Leone Reginal Rice Value Chain Development Bank toward the cost of the Sierra Leone Regional Rice Value Chain Development Project (SLRRVDP).
France in collaboration with ECOWAS is launching a second call for project proposals entitled:
Innovations for Smart Family Agriculture in the face of Climate Change in West Africa”.
This activity, strategic for ECOWAS and for the project, is the main milestone in the achievement
of Outcome 3 of the GCCA+ West Africa project: “Adaptation pilot projects, including solutions
based on an ecosystem approach, already tested and implemented in ECOWAS countries and serving
as a reference for the future replication are multiplied (extension or replication)”.
Please do find in the links below, the second call proposals for projects launched by Epertise
France and ECOWAS as part of the GCCA+WA initiative by the following links:
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in collaboration with the Western Area Farmers
Association Sierra Leone (WAFA-SL) has successfully concluded a four days farmer field day
and exhibition at Newton, in the Western Area Rural District.
Giving an overview of the occasion, the District Agricultural Officer, Western Area,
Mrs. Jane Fae Kabba-Sei Sillah described the event which started on Thursday 14th March
and ended on Sunday 17th March 2019, as a moment to bring solidarity and team spirit among
farmers in both Western Area Rural and Urban and to send a signal to authorities that
intensive farming is in progress in the District.
The four day ceremony included a farmer’s parade from Newton Mini Stadium to the Newton
Agricultural Station, an Islamic thanksgiving service at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Mosque,
ewton, a field day and exhibition and Christian thanksgiving Service at the Faith Healing
Delivering the keynote address during the exhibition day, the Chief Agricultural Officer,
in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Mr. Amara Idara Sheriff who deputized his
Minister, commended the Western Area Farmers Association for their team work and cooperation
with the MAF Western Area District Staff in promoting increase agricultural production and
productivity in the District.
Mr. Sheriff reminded the farmers that increasing agriculture is the second priority of the
New Direction Agenda of Government as it is paramount for the socio – economic growth of the country.
It is against this background that the MAF has developed a National Agricultural Transformation Plan
in which production of cereals, improvement of Livestock, vegetable and tree crops production and
biodiversity conservation has been identified as the key domestic area to actualize agricultural
transformation, he maintained.
The Chief Agricultural Officer entreated the farmers to embrace agriculture as a business,
so as to help Government reduce the over three hundred million ($300,000,000) dollars used annually to
import food items of which rice importation alone accounts for two hundred million ($200,000,000) dollars.
Government he added is working assiduously to address the challenges of input supply, access
to loan and farmer training, among others.
In his contribution earlier, the Chairperson of the Agricultural Committee in the Western Area
Rural District Council, Mr. Abdul Karim Kargbo noted that the event was very historical as it is the
first ever organized in the western area. He however expressed the concern of the District Council over
the scarcity of suitable land for agriculture pointing out the heavy encroachment taking place for housing
particularly on wetlands. Mr. Kargbo implored the authorities concern particularly the Ministry of Lands
to help protect and recover farm lands especially wet lands and Inland Valley Swamps (IVS).
Similar sentiments were expressed by the Member of Parliament Constituency 106,
Hon. Mohamed Chernoh Kabia, representatives of the Freetown City Council, Non – Governmental Organizations,
and the National Federation of Farmers of sierra Leone.
Reported by the: Agricultural Information and Communications Unit (AICU) Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF)