The Minister also handed over a band new harvester to farmers in Kenema, and eight motor bikes and three Cassava Grater Machines to farmers in Moyamba District.
Addressing Farmers, the Minister, Professor Patrick Monty Jones commended the Moyamba District Council for taking the lead in spending eighty percent of its devolved funds directly on farmers. “I hope other Councils will emulate this great example to ensure that farmers get the right support to increase production and productivity,” he said, and further notes that he want to see that every farmer becomes rich in the country.
He cautioned farmers to stop exporting foodstuffs to neighboring countries at a time like this when the country needs enough food for the table and market. “If we are serious in eradicating hunger we must cultivate our fields year in year out,” he said, and added that second cropping will help prevent the country from spending millions of Dollars to import foodstuffs that local farmers are capable of growing. He is very worried to be seeing imported food prices increasing in the country, which is why government is putting mechanisms in place to increase local food production in order to stop the importation of agricultural foodstuffs. The Minister pointed out that with the commitment of farmers increasing production and productivity Sierra Leone will be the first quarter of 2017 witness a reduction in the price of its main staple food stuff, which is rice.
Government, he said is currently preparing a programme, which will be soon rolled out to flood the market with local food stuffs and export to other counties to earn foreign exchange to the county’s economy.
Sierra Leone is currently spending over $200million to import agricultural food stuffs like rice, vegetable oil, wheat flour, chickens and onions.
The country has projected a ten percent increase in agricultural products this year to increase the rate of food self-sufficiency. A thirty percent increase will enable farmers to export their produce to other countries in the next two years.
It is no longer a secret that the Ebola outbreak caused the country lots of economic setbacks, which is why it has decided to stable the sector with agriculture. “Agriculture will bring a turnaround to the economy if handled with care,” says Professor Jones, and added that the Farmers are his friends and that government is willing to support them at all times to bring all the solutions to food insecurity in the country.
The key message the Minister took to farmers is the intensification plan for second cropping, which he promoted in other counties in Africa, and has helped them a lot in reducing hunger. Agriculture, he said must not have any interval. Second cropping, the Minister said involves of cultivation of leguminous crops or vegetables after rice or cassava. “We must use improved varieties, apply fertilizer and use the right equipment to cultivate our fertile soil to have a bumper harvest and add value to our produce,” Professor Jones said, noting that this will earn farmers lots of income and prepare them for the next planting season.
The Ministry, he said is willing to provide support for their intensification effort and production. He called on women an youths to take the lead cultivating their land.
The Minister spoke highly of local rice, which is highly nutritious than the imported. He encouraged Sierra Leoneans to cultivate the habit of consuming local food stuffs at all times so that they remain healthy. “We should take farming as a business. We should join hands to make our agriculture big. We should farm for the table, market and export so the country stops spending a lot to import foodstuffs,” he said, and warned against selling rice and other commodities to neighboring countries, because, as he puts it ‘anything produce in this country is natural and the best’.
He assured of his Ministry’s support at all times so that agriculture becomes the main breadbasket to the country’s economy. “We are blessed with the natural resources in this country. We should make good use of the opportunity to cultivate the land so that we make money for ourselves, our communities and the whole nation,” he encouraged farmers.
Madam Naasu Fofana of Women of Wanjama (WOW) in Pujehun District said the organization was formed with the aim of taking ownership of their development in the district, and added that they strongly believe that they will contribute to making Sierra Leone food self-sufficient. She revealed that they doing poultry and cultivating food crops. She assured that with support from the Ministry, they are ready to take the lead in agricultural production and productivity.
Local Authorities in the various districts assured of providing land to whosoever is ready to go into major farming. Speaker after speaker thanked President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and his Minister of Agriculture, Professor Monty Jones for the major support to farmers. They promised to make good use of the cash received for the benefit of the nation.