To help address these problems, Solidaridad in January 2018 introduced the Cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Programme (CORIP) and the Sustainable West Africa Oil Palm Programme (SWAPP) in Sierra Leone. This was followed by the creation in July 2018 of the PAG involving a team of experts from key National institutions, in addition to the private sector companies to provide strategic direction, technical advice and innovative solutions for addressing the sector challenges.
These institutions include the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Njala University, Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute, the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency and Eco-Bank.
Working in partnership with six private sector companies in both cocoa and oil palm and in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), Solidaridad is supporting 4,800 oil palm farmers in Kailahun and Kenema districts, in addition to 12,000 cocoa farmers in Kenema, Kailahun and Kono districts to address the tree crops sub-sector challenges.
Using a tested business model called the Farmer Support Center (FSC), Solidaridad and the private sector companies are co-investing in the establishment of a robust system embedded in the private sector core businesses with the goal of providing Best Farm Management services to smallholder farmers to sustainably increase yield and improve quality.
The PAG’s quarter three meeting for 2019 which was held in Kenema District from October 29-31, was strategically planned for members to observe progress on the field, interact with the private sector companies and farmers to provide advice based on their field observations.
“This is a remarkable performance. We are overwhelmingly impressed with the initial stage of the implementation,” said Madam Raymonda Johnson, who doubles as the co-chair for the PAG and Head of Crop Protection in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
“In all the 6 communities visited, we’ve seen model farms intercropped with maize, cassava, rice, banana, groundnuts and plantain,” said Dr. Mohamed Bah, Senior Lecturer and Head of Crop Science Department of Njala University. However, he advised Solidaridad and partners to find solution for the two farms which have cassava infested by grasshoppers to avoid escalation.
Under the cocoa programme, 528.14 hectares of hybrid cocoa has been planted by 1,076 number of farmers involving four cocoa buying and exporting companies – Randlyn Holding Ltd, FT Saad Ltd, Tradin Organic Ltd and the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Company. Similarly, for the oil palm programme, 1,150 hectares of improved oil palm varieties have been planted by 4,850 number of farmers involving one commercial oil palm company (Goldtree Holdings) and the Kissi Tongi Oil Palm Farmers Association in Buedu.
Funded by the Embassy of The Kingdom of the Netherlands, Solidaridad is implementing CORIP and SWAPP in Sierra Leone, Ghana, Liberia and Cote D’Ivoire. The two programmes will run from January 2018 to December 2021.