Sierra Leone’s agricultural sector is starting the new year 2014 in an optimistic mood, with an upward trend in empowering both large and small scale farmers for sustainable economic growth. In addition to the tremendous gains made in the sector and its contribution to the country’s development agenda over the years, the ministry is set to make the largest agricultural investment amounting to 1.3 billion dollars, commencing early this year.
The Minister, Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay, disclosed to this writer during his recent participation at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA), held during the International Green Week in Berlin, Germany. According to the Minister, the investment is a joint venture between four Chinese companies and the Sierra Leone government. It will cultivate 100 thousand hectares of rubber, 35 thousand hectares of irrigated large scale rice production in Moyamba, Tonkolili and Port Loko district respectively.
The project will be implemented by both small and large scale farmers in an effort to ensure that production of raw materials is done not only by large investment companies but also enables local farmers to undertake improved food production, processing and marketing activities across the country.
The Minister believes that supporting smallholder farming is the most effective way of stimulating economic growth and reducing poverty. This was why he said the 1.3 billion investments would yield multiple benefits for farmers to enhance their livelihood.
In another development, the Minister further disclosed that he has secured funding from the German government to support the monitoring; supervision and reporting on large scale agricultural investment in Sierra Leone.
“The German government selected Sierra Leone to be a pilot country for land management issues because of the frame work I presented during the 2011 global Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) conference in Rome.”
The Minister reiterated the country’s large scale investment, which he said was only limited to the Magbass Sugar Company. Upon his assumption as Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Sesay developed a policy aimed at providing incentives for large scale investment in the form of duty weavers and tax exemption for workers. This was mainly to encourage investment programmes in the country. The policy was later distributed at the 2009 Investment Forum in England after it has gone through cabinet in 2008.
The implementation of such policy has seen a good number of companies in the country. But due to the fact that the country has not being handling issues pertaining to monitoring and supervising such large companies , the Minister deemed it necessary that a framework should be developed to ensure that large companies comply with important issues such as land grabbing, displacement of land owners, water usage among others.
By: Umaru Jah