Titus Boye-Thompson, Communications Expert, MAFFS
Prof. Patrick Monty Jones came to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security just over six months ago with a wealth of experience of international agriculture paradigms and methodologies. His sterling work in creating the Nerica Rice notwithstanding, he has had a long and sustained period of agricultural research under his belt, having started at Rokupr and then on to the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA). With such an unrivalled background, it is neither strange nor unexpected that he would push the boundaries of support available to farmers in Sierra Leone to reach the goal of increasing production and productivity in the sector. In the event, he brought a new dimension to the dynamics of support to farmers in Sierra Leone when he announced that henceforth, 80% of all devolved funds for agriculture should go directly to farmers through the DAOs and District Councils with only 20% left to administration.
In the past weeks, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security has been identifying master farmers and particularly farming communities with viable agricultural projects and offering them direct cash support to further develop and enhance their activities. The funds ranging from Le25,000,000.00 to Le 50,000,000.00 are primarily given to master farmers and farming communities in the various Districts by the District Agricultural Officers (DAOs) across the country. They have chosen farmers who have excelled in a single crop or a number of crops as well as some who have expanded horizons in cash crops that provide income for farmers and jobs for their communities through a spill over to industry in terms of agro product processing.
NALLO FOODS is a family owned farm based just beyond Newton, in the Western Rural Area of Koya Chiefdom. The family is headed by one Nallo, a Sierra Leonean who had lived in Canada for some time but has now decided to bring his family over to start on a massive farming business producing organic vegetables of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. Their farm is run with the active support and assistance from the Mother in law and the wife, both Canadian citizens. Their tender care and attention to detail in the nurturing of their seedlings demonstrate the passion for the crop that this family has brought to the agriculture value chain. It is expected that very soon, after the initial seedling development stage, they would be producing enough to supply the main markets of Sierra Leones urban centres and cities.
A cheque for Le 25,000,000.00 was provided by the Minister to support this farm venture so that the family can intensify their production by employing labour to tend the crop and expanding the nurseries.
Engaging young people in agriculture has been a cumbersome task for some time now. With the twin shocks of the civil war and the recent Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) most rural areas and chiefdoms where the people depended on farming had been decimated with young people fleeing to urban areas and cities. This situation is now on the reverse as a direct result of the Minister’s interventions and encouragement to young people to come back to farming. In Kenema, the youth group based around the China Farms agricultural block have embarked on a massive 200 + acres of rice and cassava. The energized youths expressed gratification to the Minister for his vision for agriculture in Sierra Leone and also for his direct support to farmers across the country. The Kenema youths, led by the District Youth Commission leader sang songs praising Prof. Monty Jones as a visionary in agriculture and extolling his virtues as a great man well versed in agricultural knowledge and expertise. The Minister and members of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security were accompanied by other senior staff of the Ministry to visit the youth farm and see for themselves the vast sprawl of the farm just outside Kenema Town at Nongowa. The Minister gave the youths incentive support in the sum of Le25,000,000.00 to support the weeding ad second dose application of fertilizer in the farm. He advised the youths to continue with their good work and for that work to become exemplified as gainful opportunity for young people in agriculture all over the country.