By State House Communications Unit :
Bo, Southern Province, 12th April 2013; His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma has assured the people of Bo in the Southern Region of Sierra Leone that his government will continue to prioritize agriculture in the Agenda for Prosperity. He made this declaration on the occasion of the formal opening ceremony of the Industrial Growth Centre as well as the handing over of Agricultural Development Assets to District Councils in the Southern Province.
The president said that government will work hard to increase the production of our staple food beyond self-sufficiency, with emphasis on sustainable land and water management to improve yields, promote export crops, promote commercial agriculture along the value chain, link farmers to markets, as well as provide effective rural and agribusiness financing systems that will increase the access of smallholder farmers to finance.
PRESIDENT KOROMA OPENING THE BO GROWTH CENTRE
President Koroma further noted that “We will enhance a productive livestock industry and continue to encourage large-scale private sector investments in agriculture with effective out-grower schemes that will support the Smallholder Commercialization Programme”.
Giving a brief background on the state of the agricultural sector in Sierra Leone, the president disclosed that when he took over government as President in 2007, agriculture was on top of his list of priorities in the Agenda for Change, saying “We clearly articulated our vision for the sector as the engine for socio-economic growth and development through commercialization and the promotion of the private sector, including the farmers and farmer-based organizations”.
The Chief Executive noted that it was on the basis of the foregoing that government significantly augmented the budgetary allocation to the sector from the 1.6% inherited from the previous government to the current 10% being allocated by the national budget.
Commenting further on how far Sierra Leone has come in improving the agricultural sector, President Ernest Bai Koroma revealed that the country, under his leadership, embarked on the process of developing a comprehensive roadmap for the long-term development of the sector within the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme commonly known as the CAADP process. This process, he said, “led to the formulation of the National Sustainable Agricultural Development Programme or NSADP, which serves as the country’s 20-year roadmap for the agricultural sector.”
According to His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, government and development partners decided to particularly focus attention on the smallholder farmers for the first five years (2010 – 2014), which led to the meticulous and painstaking conceptualization and formulation of the Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP), popularly known as “Farm for Business”.
“Since the launching of the Programme in July, 2010, we have been able to organize the smallholder farmers into farmer-based organizations, built their capacity through farmer field schools and supported them with Agricultural Business Centres, tractors, rice mills, generators, power tillers and other equipment and inputs,” he said, adding that government has rehabilitated inland valley swamps, constructed feeder roads and established financial services associations all over the country.
President Koroma paid glowing tribute to UNIDO for the support in establishing the Industrial Growth Centre in Bo as well as IFAD for their support to the key component of the SCP, which is component 4; providing access to finance for the rural population. “With the support of IFAD, my Government piloted the Rural Finance and Community Improvement Programme (RFCIP) in the Eastern Districts of Kono, Kailahun and Kenema, and later extend to Koinadugu, Bonthe and Pujehun Districts.”
The president also disclosed that government’s ceaseless determination to transform the agricultural sector has received a great boost through the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAFSP) approval of “government’s request of US$50 million Grant to compliment the ongoing interventions in the agriculture sector”. He also paid glowing tribute to development partners, particularly the United States of America, Australia, Canada, South Korea, the Bill Gates Foundation and the Multi-Donor Trust Fund of GAFSP.