By Aruna Turay
With funds from the European Union (EU), ChildFund, Oxfam and other partners in the agricultural sector yesterday 27th July, 2021 ended a National Consultative Conference for private sector actors (traders, food processors, supermarkets, MFI, farmers, and individuals) of current food production trends and existing opportunities in the diversifying and boosting crop production (BCD) project to trade in local farm products in Sierra Leone.
Speaking on the project concept, results areas, crop value chains and current results, Sheku Gbla, Boosting Agriculture & Food Security (BAFS) Projects Lead said objectives of the Seminar is to show case potentials in agriculture, especially the BCD project to encourage food processing companies, supermarkets, and exporters to purchase from target farmers and trade in local farm products.
He said it also supports farmers and the private sector actors to generate ideas to market their products in four crop value chains in supermarkets and vice-versa i.e. supermarkets and FBOs becoming agents or marketers of crop products.
In addition, he went on, the Seminar further creates a platform where farmers and private sector actors will interact to promote mutual interest and trade in four food value chains supported in the BCD project i.e., Cassava, Ginger, Maize, and Irish potato.
John Makina, Country Director Oxfarm International Country Office, Sierra Leone said the Seminar should create platform for main stakeholders within the agricultural and markets settings, an opportunity he said is often missed out in Sierra Leone.
He said collaboration between NGOs and the private sector is very important as together they can make very big difference and work towards bridging the gap of missed opportunities in utilising the land.
John Makina called for the forum to be very interactive and used as a way of bringing stakeholders together to come up with improved farming that can benefit farmers and the country as a whole to do more than what is currently done.
He ended by encouraging the local media to concentrate their reportage on issues relating to improving local farming.
John Abu-Kpawoh is EU’s Programme Officer – Rural Development & Environment. He said Boosting Agriculture & Food Security (BAFS) programme as a whole has been designed in strong collaboration with the Government to respond to the challenges of improving agriculture productivity, in an innovative and sustainable way.
According to him, the implementing team has already presented the scope of this consultative conference, adding that the crops diversification grant to Oxfam and implementing partners presents a great opportunity to contribute to developing viable value chains together with the private sector.
He said a programme of this nature will only be effective if there is efficiency in the process of event from production to processing, trading, distribution and consumption, adding that such efficiency gains can often come from modifying existing farming and processing practices.
He called on stakeholders to commit to governing effective crops value chain, noting that one of the ways is to strengthen agriculture economically and to improve its resistance is to encourage agriculture to be more focused on local markets and short supply chains.
He assured that the EU is committed to supporting efforts to increasing economic opportunities across Sierra Leone, actions that would encourage farmers, processors and agri-food traders to contribute to the short supply chain system.
“That should be a key instrument to improving agriculture value chain – a key component of economic development and job creation,” he added, while reechoing EU’s commitment to building a resilient Sierra Leone through improved food and income security.
Various group works by participants generate ideas marketing of farm products from Cassava, Mize, Ginger and Irish potato in supermarkets; identified general marketable cassava, maize, ginger and Irish potato farm products.
The group works further generate ideas marketing of farm products from Cassava, Mize, Ginger and Irish potato in supermarkets and ideas generated for the creation of the farmers’ platform.
Climaxing the Seminar, participants presented discussion points using gallery work.