By TAMBA BORBOR of Cocorioko :
Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) on Thursday 13th November 2014 undertook a three-day assessment of the potential impact of the deadly Ebola disease on the agricultural sector.
On Friday 14th November 2014, the Minister met with staff of the District Agriculture Office to get first-hand information on the status of agriculture amidst the ongoing Ebola crisis.
District Agricultural Officer (DAO) for Bombali District – Aiah Joseph Thorlie explained that they have carried out several tasks which are aimed at mitigating the effects of the disease on the sector in the Bombali district.
The DAO noted that the protected forests area at Tambaka is faced with a lot of confrontation from encroachers in the community whom Mr. Thorlie alleges are being encouraged by the Paramount Chief.
He disclosed that they have seized a total of 16 power saws from illegal loggers; adding that before the Ebola, the Community Banks and Financial Services Association (FSAs) built by the Agriculture Ministry through the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) were teeming with customers going to repay their loans.
Now he stated that the farmers are not repaying the remaining loans as a result of Ebola impact.
He lauded the Minister on his new appointment as the Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). “This appointment is for the entire country and not you Mr. Minister,” the Bombali District DAO said.
Mr. Prince Kamara, the Project Coordinator of the Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP) disclosed that very soon the Ministry would commence activities under the Linking Farmers to Market (LFM) project; while warning all staffs who refuse to stay in their duty stations to resign or undertake the tasks specified in their Terms of Reference.
In his statement, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food acknowledged that had it not been for the Ebola outbreak, the sector would have gone very far with the implementation of new projects aimed at further improving the state of agriculture in the country.
He disclosed that they have established the National Protected Area Authority (NPAA) and four National Parks- having inherited only one.
He stressed that the Agriculture sector is very strategic in the fight against the disease while noting that there have been slight increase in a basket of imported items including rice.
Because of alternative foodstuff like cassava, garri and sweet potatoes, Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay said that the people were not much affected as a result of non-dependence on rice alone.
“This is our resilience strategy and we have to maintain this,” the Agriculture Minister stated.
The Diversified Food Production Project (DFPP) and GAFSP he disclosed would soon recommence; adding that he would soon hand over sites for construction of additional Agricultural Business Centers (ABCs), Ward Offices, FSAs etc.
“Without the farmers… we would not succeed no matter what we do. Let us leave a mark for others after us to enjoy and witness,” the Agriculture Minister said.
The Minister also made a stop at Magburaka in the Tonkolili District where he was briefed by the DAO- Haroun Rashid Kamara on progress made so far in the agricultural sector even during these difficult times.
While in Bo, Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay also got first-hand update from the DAO while burning issues surrounding the protected area of Kangari Hills were discussed with stakeholders to find solutions.
The Minister of Agriculture during the field trip inspected ongoing construction of Ward Offices at Masahun in Kakua Chiefdom, Gerehun village, Boama Chiefdom, Fallu village, Yamandu village including a tour of the Sierra Leone Wetlands Conservation Project’s Mamunta-Mayossoh Conservation site.