|BY STATE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS TEAM|
|President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma on Saturday 2nd November said that there is tremendous potential in the agricultural sector to become the engine of growth in Sierra Leone.He made this statement during the commemoration of the World Rural Women’s Day 2013 held at the Bombali District Council Hall, Makeni City.”We will not be able to transform the country without getting it right in this sector”, he said, and added that agriculture is key to the development of the country.
He encouraged the women to concentrate on the yield rather than the acreage cultivated, and called on them to talk less and work more. “Let’s use this occasion as an opportunity to reflect on what we are doing to ginger up ourselves”, President Koroma urged the jam-packed hall full of jubilant rural women farmers.
President Koroma further said that during the war, it was only the women who braved things and fend food for the family while the men were stayed at home. “When we assumed office in 2007, we decided to tackle the issues affecting women; a reason why we passed laws favouring women’s empowerment, such as the Gender Act, the Sexual Offences Act and so on.
The Chief Executive called on the women of Sierra Leone to be committed as no one will come from Heaven to give Sierra Leoneans wealth, adding that “if we are determined to work, nothing is impossible in this world”.
The president mentioned Pillar 8 in the Agenda for Prosperity that supports the empowerment of women and girls through education; reducing socio-economic barriers and supporting formal and non-formal education; increasing their involvement in decision-making in public, private and traditional institutions; strengthening prevention and response mechanisms to violence against women and girls as well as improving the business environment for women, with access to finance and capacity development.
“Agriculture Ministry”, the president maintained, should take the lead in not only driving poverty away from Sierra Leone, but also be at the forefront of the country’s industrialization drive.
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Dr Joseph Sam Sesay pointed out that if available statistics is anything to go by that majority of the people of Sierra Leone are farmers as well as women and poor people, then majority of Sierra Leoneans are poor rural women farmers. He went on to note that women produce over 60% of food stuff in Africa.
Dr Sam Sesay also said that President Koroma is the first president in the history of Sierra Leone to appoint a woman as deputy minister of agriculture. He also noted that President Koroma is the first president in Africa to appoint women in very sensitive positions such as a Brigadier General, Auditor-General, Solicitor-General and Commissioner General of NRA. This, he said, is unprecedented not just in Sierra Leone, but the entire African continent.
The Mayor of Makeni City, Her Lordship Sunkarie Kabbah Kamara who ably presided over the ceremony, noted that women are a great force to reckon with all across the world. In Sierra Leone, she said, women provide 80% of farm labour for food production, processing and food preparation. She noted that women are responsible for food security at family and community levels. She however said that, cultural, political and economic conditions prohibits women from realizing their full potentials. As such they remain disadvantaged by unequal access to land for agriculture and even less access to technical inputs, resulting to low agricultural productivity levels.
Giving an overview of Rural Women in Sierra Leone, deputy Minister of Agriculture 1, Hon. Marie Jalloh said world rural women’s day is being commemorated to identify the challenges facing rural women and celebrate their successes in the form of exhibitions in order to motivate them to do more.
According to the deputy Mayor of Freetown, women should come together to achieve sustainable food systems in the country, a recipe for prosperity for women in Sierra Leone.
President of the Women’s Forum, Maude Peacock, called for land reform for women to be able to take advantage of the opportunities thrown up by agriculture in the country.
According to Madam Elizabeth Mans, President of the All Political Parties Women’s Association (APPWA), women should be very much involved in the governance process in the country, and they should stand up to their responsibilities. She also said that the time has gone when people regard agriculture as a vocation for the poor. She pleaded with the Minister of Agriculture to invest in women in agriculture and ensure that they are not left behind.
Executive Director of Action Aid International Mr. Sillah said they will continue to advocate for women to access and control land for agricultural purposes.
Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Mustapha Bai Attila stated that rural women contribute immensely to the socio-economic development of the country. “As the national machinery responsible for the advancement of women, let me assure the rural women my ministry will continue to do its best to support women where necessary and collaborate with other agencies to ensure that women take up their rightful positions in the society”, he said.
Minister of Health and Sanitation, Miatta Kargbo, urged rural women to address the issue of “demographic dividend” in the sense that women are bearing too many children in rural communities, which inadvertently undermines high agricultural productivity levels and economic empowerment of rural women. She pledged to work with the ministry of agriculture and other relevant ministries to push women’s issues forward across the entire country.