Titus Boye-Thompson Communications Expert
In what is clearly his longest and most arduous trip since taking on the mantle of leadership at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security in January this year, Minister Prof. Patrick Monty Jones has made very great strides to put Sierra Leone firmly on the map of some of the key former Soviet Republics for bilateral collaboration and trade exchange in Agriculture, forestry and livestock.
Accompanied by the Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to Russia and the Balkan region, HE John Yambassu and a team of senior officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Prof. Monty Jones was honouring an invitation by the Presidents of Belarus and Ukraine, two of the power house emerging states in the East European block.
PROFESSOR MONTY JONES
Speaking on his return to Freetown, the hard working and energetic World Food Prize winning researcher now serving as one of His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma’s most spirited Ministers was enthusiastic about the prospects for improved relations between Sierra Leone and the former Soviet Republics, indicating that this visit has opened the way for the close ties shared with these countries whilst in the USSR would now be rekindled. He recalls the many scholarships that Sierra Leoneans enjoyed from the Soviet Union and pointed to the numbers of Agriculturists trained alongside Doctors and Engineers in the past. His deliberations in the countries he visited over the past ten days have all been geared towards achieving beneficial gains for Sierra Leone and to widen and expand trade links and international collaboration with the emerging Balkan states.
Arriving in Belarus, Minister Monty Jones and team engaged in wide ranging discussions on agricultural development with a host of officials in government and the private sector. They visited farms and farm machinery manufacturing plants and held talks with State officials on a range of cross cutting issues bordering on bilateral support and international cooperation.
Opportunities for trade, economic cooperation and skills development were explored as well as support for training agriculturists from Sierra Leone on modern farm management and crop technologies. The Minister visited the Minsk City Council where he met with the Chairman of Minsk Economic Committee, a leading and influential figure who assured the Minister and his delegation of their preparedness to establishing trade and economic ties with Sierra Leone.
The delegation further met with the First Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food with whom our Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security had serious deliberations on technological and materials support for Sierra Leone through training, education and the supply of farm machinery, fertilizers and herbicides. The delegation visited a government owned and managed agro processing farm and held talks with officials at the largest agrochemicals plant in Belarus.
In the Ukraine, Minister Prof. Monty Jones and his delegation were given a very warm welcome. The largest of the former Soviet Republics and the bread basket of the former Soviet Union. Ukraine’s agricultural supremacy has been one of its key strengths and trade with other former soviet republics has established it as a credible powerhouse in the region. The Minister’s delegation was met by Ukrainian government officials and Sierra Leone’s Honorary Consul to the Ukraine, Ludmayla Rusalina. Discussions with Ukrainian government officials focussed on how to improve and expand relations between Sierra Leone and the Ukraine, on agricultural cooperation, on economic and trade links and on pathways to sustainable agricultural development and food security for Sierra Leone. The delegation met with the First Vice Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, the Minister of Agriculture and Food, Hon. Taras Kutovyi and the Deputy Minister of Economic Development Hon. Natalya Mykolska.
Going through a very packed schedule, Minister Monty Jones and his delegation visited other institutions such as the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine where plans were discussed for the training of specialists in agriculture from Sierra Leone including staff already employed at MAFFS; the National Technology University and Kiev Polytechnic Institute.
The ten-day visit was concluded by trips to farms and agricultural research stations including the farm of a former Governor of Ukraine that spanned over 70,000 hectares. On returning, Minister Monty Jones was pleased with the outcome of the visit outlining that the work starts now, to start drawing up concrete measures to ensure that the action points are done, to work on MOUs that would further secure the gains made by the visit and to facilitate the closer working and collaboration that would see Ukrainian investors and Government Agencies engaged in supporting agriculture and agro processing in Sierra Leone. Prof Monty Jones was hopeful that very soon, we would start seeing the fruits of this visit as table rice, farm machinery to support smallholder commercialization and adaptive fertilizers and herbicides are made available to farmers at very affordable costs.
At a time when the President has called for structural realignment and rationalization of public expenditure with a range of austerity measures designed to encourage the country to tighten its belt in order to consolidate the economic gains this government has made, it is refreshing to see that this Minister has had to go all out on such an arduous journey to make the case for his country. Prof. Monty Jones would go down as one of those of President Ernest Bai Koroma’s appointments that has secured tremendous gains for the government in general and agricultural development for Sierra Leone in particular. He has worked so resiliently for the country, building new links and networks for the future economic development and at all times aligning hi activities with the President’s post Ebola reconstruction and the wider Agenda for Prosperity.