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FAO Calls for Sound Policy to Invest in agriculture

The Assistant Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Representative in Sierra Leone in charge of programs, Mr. Harding Wuyango has revealed that the agricultural workforce in Sierra Leone comprises mainly of youths, that in the past some investments were made in mechanization for farming in the country, but underscored the need for a sound policy framework to encourage the private sector to invest in agriculture. 

He made this statement on Thursday 24th June 2021 at the Inception Workshop for the Project TCP/SIL/3802 ‘Development of Sierra Leone Mechanization Policy’ organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry at the conference hall of the FAO, Freetown Road, Wilberforce in Freetown. 

He articulated that agricultural mechanization is key to Africa’s ambition to end hunger in the continent by 2025 as stated in the Malabo Declaration of 2014highlighting that to expandthe area under cultivation, mechanization offers the ability to perform operations at the right time to maximize production potential; provides multi-functional machinery not only for crop production but also for postharvest operations, transport, stationary power applications and infrastructure improvement (drainage and irrigation canals, roadwork); compensates for seasonal labour shortages (releases labour for more productive work), and reduces the drudgery associated with manual agricultural work. 

Mr. Harding Wuyango continued that the Government of Sierra Leone views agriculture as one of the major flagship programmes after education, that in this regard, agriculture is expected to create the enabling environment for the provision of much-needed food, especially rice for the people of Sierra Leone and that pursuant to the above, the Ministry of Agriculture is procuring a variety of farm machinery, especially tractors and power tillers to support farmers nationwide in their agricultural activities for which the development of a sound policy is desirable. 

“In light of the above, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations are implementing a Technical Cooperation Project (TCP) to formulate a national agricultural mechanization policy for Sierra Leone. The finalization of a sound Mechanization Policy will support and contribute to the following national programs:- strategies and vision: (i) The National Sustainable Agricultural Development Plan (NSADP 2010-2030) (ii) The National Agricultural Transformation Programme 2023 (iii) The Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP) (iii) The National Rice Development Strategy and (iv) The Public-Private Partnership strategy,” the FAO Assistant Representative explained. 

He went on to reveal that the inception workshop brought together key agricultural mechanization stakeholders to participate in the launching of the TCP project and kick-startthe implementation of the project activities stressing that the workshop would help to define, using a participatory approach, the present situation and then develop a vision of how the future should look like.  

The Assistant FAO Representative further disclosed that FAO is supporting the Ministry of Agriculture to have a policy on mechanization and the need to address the workforce as well as revive the four Agriculture Training Centers nationwide to support the policy direction and train youths to operate and maintain the tractors and other machines and wished all successful deliberations. 

Some of the topics discussed at the workshop included the National Context of Agricultural Mechanization: Past, Present and Future by the National ; Agricultural Mechanization Strategy Formulation: Concepts and Methodology by the FAO International Consultant; Lead Presentation of the TCP Document: Goal, Outputs, Activities etc.; A Rapid Mechanization Stakeholders Analysis; Taking Stock of Past Experiences and Current Practices with Regards to Agricultural Mechanization in Sierra Leone and How to Increase Demand of Agricultural Mechanization. 

The Director of Agricultural Engineering in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Abdul Rahman Kamara, who chaired the program, affirmed that the Ministry is pleased with the support from FAO citing other supports like the drafting of the National Irrigation Master Plan and other policies all aimed at supporting youths who are the main focus of the Ministry and revealed that agriculture is government’s second flagship program. 

He disclosed that in 2011 the previous government procured 290 tractors through a higher purchase scheme, that were distributed to Farmer Based Organizations but lamented that there were challenges, the reason for the paradigm shift as the tractors now procured would be managed by the private sector intimating that $200 million worth of rice is imported into the country yearly, that 60% of Sierra Leoneans are engaged in agriculture and that oxen plough was used in the past which some farmers still prefer to mechanization. 

He continued that the payment system this time for the tractors is 60% payment by government and 40% by farmers as government wants to diversify agriculture to meet the demands of the growing population, guaranteed that government would attract and retain large-scale investments as well as diversify crop production, that the tractors are not enough but that more would be purchased as government is serious to attain food sufficiency with plans to provide 15 power tillers in each district and guaranteed proper land preparation with bulldozers for sustainability. 

Dr. Abdul Rahman Kamara concluded that the Ministry would cultivate 1,200 acresof rice and that government would make 30% down payment for farmers to use the tractors. 

Over 40 participants included representatives from Welt Hunger Welf, National Youth Commission, Community Based Organizations (CBOs), Njala University College, MIRO Forestry Company, World Food Program, National Commission for Social Action and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency and were selected to represent the public and private sector, farmer organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), academia, research institutions, traders on mechanization equipment and machinery, after-sale service providers such as workshops, spare part dealers, agro-processors, mechanization hire service providers, development partners supporting agriculture and mechanization, women and youths and other key stakeholders involved in promoting agricultural mechanization in Sierra Leone. 

Mr. JosephMpagalileand Prof. Karim Houmymade PowerPoint presentations by zoom from the FAO Regional Office in Accra, Ghana. 

Mr. Ibrahim Bangura, the Focal Person for the Mechanization Policyat FAO highlighted the main objectives of the policy revealing that there are six national and one international consultants who would work out the development of the policy. 

Highlighting the objectives of the workshop, Mr. Ibrahim Bangura said it is to agree on the activities and roles of stakeholders for the successful implementation of the project to specifically review the key stakeholders for agricultural mechanization in the country, the status of work in the key thematic areas under this project and present and discuss the plan of work for the project while the expected outcomes are for a clear understanding of the main stakeholders that would contribute to a successful implementation of the project, common understanding of the specific contribution stakeholders and the project would make to mechanization in Sierra Leone and an agreed work plan for the project implementation.  

The highly-interactive workshop was climaxed with the group work and presentations, the question and answer sessions and the presentation on the way forward including the 

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