One of the farms visited is operated by the Tonkolili Women’s Youth Network, which have cultivated tomato, onions, pepper, okra; some of which they as now selling to Hotels and Companies in Makeni City and other areas in the north.
Haja Isatu Conteh, alias Haja Network, is the leader of the Network. She revealed that they are in farming not only to make money for their families and community, but to also respond to the clarion call of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma to make Sierra Leone food self-sufficient, through increased production and productivity. She pointed out that they have ten groups, which are targeting an acre of onions each, bringing it to ten acres in their communities.
Haja Network commended the Ministry of Agriculture, which has been supporting them to reach this height. She pleaded with the Minister to provide them with food for work and tools so as to enable them increase production.
The Minister of Agriculture, Professor Patrick Monty Jones thanked the women for the progress made and assured them of continuous support from the Ministry. He advised that the Network targets one hundred acres of onions in the whole district, and noted that there is a market for onions in the country.
Sierra Leone, he said is blessed with land and people that are innovative. “We must tap these precious resources to have good yield of crops,” the Minister said.
The Minister with his entourage also visited a farm at Mayambari Village, where the Sakomnu Farmers Association has cultivated oil palm, cashew, cassava, pineapple, lettuce, onions, pepper etc. He was received by Chief Kapr Lowa, who briefed the Minister that they are committed to expand with the required support from the Ministry. He urged the Minister to help them with a cassava gratery machine so that they add value to their cassava project.
The Minister was very impressed with the expansion and urged that improved varieties of okra, cucumber etc, be cultivated.
Professor Patrick Monty Jones observed that farmers are finding it difficult to take their goods to the market. He advised that the private sector come in with mobile refrigerator vehicles to take perishable goods from the farm to sales point so that the farmers will make money. “The private sector should take over the purchasing and distribution process,” he noted.
The Ministry is expecting to mobile refrigerator vehicles in the coming weeks to serve as a pilot project that will usher in the private sector.
The Minister and entourage also held a meeting with farmers that have been utilizing the fertile land of the Chinese Magbas Sugar Complex. It can be recalled that the farmers cultivated about 2, 400hectares of rice last year which they want to repeat this year and also expand on it. Speaker after speaker note that their fear so that they don’t know when the Chinese will come to take over their land.
The Minister gave them the go ahead and described them as part if good citizens who should continue to help build their country. “You do not need to stop. The land is government’s property leased to the Chinese,” he said, noting further that they should organize themselves well to build their communities and the nation. He promised to tap the available opportunities to provide machinery to help in tilling the soil for then coming planting season.