PLANTING SEASON FOR 2016 LAUNCHED, AGRICULTURE MINISTER EXPECTS BUMPER HARVEST
Titus Boye-Thompson, Communications Expert
The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) Prof. Patrick Monty Jones, on Saturday 7th May 2016, launched the planting season for 2016. The Minister made the symbolic launching at Makeni, Bombali District, a predominantly agricultural economy where over 80% of the economic activities are linked to agriculture. In the event, The Minister informed farmers present at the ceremony that he expects Bombali District to do well in registering good results on the twin targets of increasing production by a marked increase in the area under cultivation and also to increase productivity by an increase in the yield per hectare. The Minister also used the occasion to validate the distribution of seeds, fertilizers and other farm inputs to farmers across the country and in the same ceremony, made a conducted tour and inspection of farm inputs of the items being distributed at the stores of the Seed Multiplication Centre in Makeni.
Demonstrating his depth of knowledge and experience in agriculture in general and rice cultivation in particular, The Minister, who is a World Food Prize laureate for his work in the creation of NERICA RICE – a variety of rice that performs very well in the Sierra Leonean environment, cautioned farmers to use the seeds, fertilizers and other inputs for the purpose that they were being delivered to them. He admonished them to engage on better farming methods and to avoid the temptation to spread the seeds and fertilizers over a larger area than is already advised to them as such would produce a lower yield.
Speaking to a large crowd of farmers, agricultural extension workers and other stakeholders in Makeni, Prof. Monty Jones confirmed that the immediate priority for his Ministry is to meet the Presidential priorities for agriculture recovery in the 10 – 24 months period of restructuring of key economic sectors and to re-align sector priorities to fit with the Agenda for Prosperity. He assured the country of his determination to see the vision of His Excellency the President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, fulfilled for agriculture by focussing on farmer’s welfare and enhancing their ability to provide better yield of the more nutritious and healthy crops that this country is accustomed to producing.
The Minister announced that his Ministry is currently working on several large projects that will benefit farmers in the country. He indicated that talks were already far advanced for a massive investment in agriculture by the Islamic Development Bank that is scheduled to start in January 2017 and would focus on four specific sites across the country, targeting large scale agricultural production of food and cash crops. He also made mention of a potential expansive farming of cassava for flour and ethanol production, noting that the country would save up to 40% on foreign exchange spent on the importation of wheat flour into the country. He also indicated that the Ministry is focussing on Onion cultivation with a view to ending importation of that crop entirely in the very near future.
One of the key projects in the Ministry of agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, the Linking Farmers to Market was represented t the ceremony and its Co-ordinator Mr F S Kanu echoed the Minister’s statements when he advised farmers that they should concentrate on making very good use of the seeds and other items being provided to them. He announced that the logistics are already in place to get the inputs to farmers all over the country and that a team of Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) officers will routinely inspect farmers use of the items and verify that they were following the correct procedures.
Permanent Secretary at the Ministry, Mr Abdulai Koroma admonished farmers to seek advice from the team of officers located at the District Agriculture offices across the country, re-stating his Ministry’s determination to ensure that farmers get the best support that can be provided to them.