As a way of promoting the production of food and nutrition security and the right to food into the smallholder commercialization programme in Sierra Leone, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) with funds from the German government on Monday started a two weeks workshop for stakeholders at the Njala Univerity College Guest house conference hall.
The theme for the workshop according to Dr. Philip John Kanu, National Coordinator, Right to Food and Nutrition Security FAO-SL, is ‘Mainstreaming Food and Nutrition Security and the Right to Food into Smallholder Commercialization programme’
He disclosed that two years back they received funding from the German government to implement a project on a pilot phase in Moyamba and Kambia district, to mainstream right to food into the sub national plant that is the district councils. He explained that after that implementation a team came to assess the impact of the project and they found out that it created an impact on which the Civil Societies that were formally referred to as ‘Evil Societies’ were now being seen as partners in development as the project exposed them on how to dialogue and to push issues of interest that are really affecting the society.
According to Dr. Kanu, the German team went to Njala University where they saw the potential of agriculture in the environment and they at FAO requested for further training. However the German people intended to accept only five participants because of the cost in going to Germany, but they at FAO suggested that if they cannot go to Germany for the training, then let the trainer come to Sierra Leone so that many people will benefit. This he said led to the organization of the workshop at Njala Campus in Monkonde.
Representing the German Ambassador in the programme, Dr. Foday M. Kallon disclosed that the German Embassy has a very small representation as it has only the Ambassador and the Deputy. He stated since 2012 the German government had been funding the program, with the sum of 1.9 million Euros for a period of three years, as the Germans are time conscious. The German government he disclosed has also been supporting the Seed Enterprise Enhancement Development (SEED).
Mohamed Jalloh from Irish Aid in his address stated that Food and Nutrition Security is increasingly recognized as a Human Right issue and essential for economic, social and human development. Yet he said it is a complex and multi dimensional subject as without adequate food security, the vicious cycle of under nutrition leading to increased vulnerability to infections disease, impaired physical and mental development, reduced productivity and worsen the nutritional status.
He argued that this is especially true for children in view of the extreme vulnerability, as this multi dimensional subject is well captured by the definition “Food security exist when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.”
In support of what Mr. Jalloh from Irish Aid said, Madam Solade Pyne-Bailey, Deputy Manager Food and Nutrition Programme in The Ministry of Health and Sanitation, stated that the prevalence of malnutrition are still high in Sierra Leone despite a clear expression of political will to ensure food security for all and realize the Human Right to food especially for vulnerable groups such as children under five, pregnant women and lactating mothers. He added that this is of great concern to government and as a result various strategies are being undertaken together with Line ministries, donors, departments and agencies to address and sustain it.
She disclosed that according to the Standardized Monitoring and Assessment in Relief and Transition (SMART) survey conducted in 2010, 34.1% of children under the age of five years are stunted, 6.9% are wasted, and 18.7% are underweight. The SLDHS 2008 also shows high levels of anaemia with 76% amongst underfives and 46% amongst women of child bearing age contributing immensely to the high rates of infant, underfives and maternal morbidity and mortality.
In response to the country’s challenges, the Government launched PRSP II, the “Agenda for Change,” with a focus on four key priorities: energy; transportation; agriculture; and human development. Following the commencement or completion of several large road and energy infrastructure projects, agriculture was identified as the President’s top priority. The development of agribusiness has been identified as the strategy to increase food security, revenue generation and wealth creation.
Representing the Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP), Mr. Philip Kamara, National Coordinator SCP, maintained that the Government of Sierra Leone is also stepping up efforts to accelerate improvements in nutrition by strengthening multi-sectoral collaboration for nutrition and mainstreaming nutrition in relevant sectors, namely health and agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) and Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), with support from the REACH (Renewed Efforts Against Child Hunger) partnership, are leading the formulation of the Food and Nutrition Security Policy Implementation Plan.
Finally, in January 2012, the government of Sierra Leone has sent a letter to the representative to the Secretary General of Food and Nutrition Security expressing Sierra Leone’s interest in joining the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement.
The FAO representative Gabriel Rugalema in the launching ceremony, stated that Sierra Leone is high on the agenda in embracing issues of nutrition and right to food as late 2012 Sierra Leone drew concern in the movement on scaling up nutrition, but the sad news was that it was close to the election period, adding that the initiatives of FAO and WHO and from other agents were funded by the Irish Aid.
He disclosed that the workshop is the first in the sub region as one may ask oneself why other mainstreaming in nutrition and right to food consideration in their institution policy and operational work, as one may also claim that they were already busy with the day to day issues and bringing on board nutrition and the right to food security mainstreaming as it is already making them tired so why they should be bordered with that?
“If agriculture is the foundation of civilization, then nutrition is the foundation of life” as people with malnutrition are prone to various diseases he said.
The program was chaired by Professor Felixtina Josephine-Ellis, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Njala University, whilst Professor Abu Sesay, Vice Chancellor/ Principal of Njala University delivered the welcome address. He pointed out that Njala is the home of agriculture in the country and hopes that the visitors enjoyed their stay on the campus
The program was well attended by representatives from the FAO, The German Embassy, Irish Aid, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Njala University, participants from various organization/civil societies and even the media.