The rainy season is here and Sierra Leone though naturally gifted with fertile land with loamy and sandy soils suitable for the cultivation of almost every type of plant is still unable to feed itself. Food production has drastically reduced in the country and some people mostly those living in the Cities can no longer afford a square meal a day.
Majority of farm households are net buyers of food they do not grow enough to meet their needs and regularly have to buy in additional supply. This most times leads to a fall in food consumption, and the lack of capacity building and provision of adequate support to farmers has crippled the mechanized farming project that is meant for food security in Sierra Leone.
Malnourished snotty children with dirt-caked faces and bloated stomachs wailing in hunger and sheer misery are a common sight in our hinterland while adults painfully starve, because they are not getting enough to eat.
The unpalatable truth is that most of the country has unacceptable high rates of food insecurity and the people are vulnerable to all types of sicknesses.
The food may be there but the poor cannot afford to buy it. Poverty in rural areas among farmers is evident on the level of malnutrition and it is responsible for the maternal and infant mortality rates which are multiplying in the country day by day.
Farming in this country has been left in the hands of the poor grass rooters living in the rural areas, particularly remote parts of this country where farming is the only means of getting food to eat and income generating activities for existence. The lack of capacity building and provision of adequate support to farmers has made it very difficult to enable peasant farmers embark on mechanized farming.
The people depend on farmers to buy their basic food stuff to enable them prepare a decent meal for those who can afford it, though the Government and its development partners are working round the clock to do the paper work and solicit donor funds with revenues generated locally to implement pilot or sustainable projects that will boost the agricultural industry.
The government is expected to make every effort to increase the quantity of food production for the people for an affordable price but independent investigations conducted by this press has revealed that most structures put in place by government and its partners have not made any land mark impact on the agricultural industry or the lives of the people.
This author recently visited the provinces and observed that many pilot projects meant for food security, now lie in limbo. Tractors meant for farming can be seen damaged and abandoned and new ones are misused for commercial transport in most towns and villages.
Agricultural projects are not also sustained as stores and drying floors supposedly meant for farmers are now lying in complete shambles abandoned by beneficiaries and the funding agency.
Some projects are not properly monitored and supervised.
However most peasant farmers interviewed by this press disclosed that their major problem is the lack of multiplication seeds, fertilizers and the technical knowledge on how and when to farm.
Farmers in the rural areas are not educated and they lack the managerial methodologies to embark on sustainable agriculture and marketing of their produce locally, some of the farmers do not even know when or how to use modern agricultural technologies to increase their farming yields.
Most agricultural projects failed to make the impact because the projects were not community participatory and the implementing partners only focused on the fund available for the project to squander it, as most structures put in place have collapsed.
In a big shack made of Iron sheets and pieces of wood (commonly known as pan body )is a project funded by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in the Mano Dasse Chiefdom Moyamba District to boost the agricultural industry in that part of the country
Unfortunately this press observed that the project site has been abandoned and encroachers are occupying the building and the structure is also dilapidated due to the poor culture of maintenance in the eyes of concerned authorities without doing anything.
There are many signboards erected almost at every town and village in the country but if one can properly investigate the implementation of those projects including its impact on the target beneficiaries’ one will notice the maladministration of some state functions and their partners involved in helping the people have not made any land mark development.
By Saidu Bah