Increasing incomes of smallholder farmers through the promotion of agriculture as a business and also increasing the number of women participation in society, the Ministry of Finance yesterday singed a loan and grant of $28.5m with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The Agriculture Value Chain Development Project (AVDP) will target an estimated 43,000 direct beneficiaries and their families, thereby reaching approximately a total of 260,000 people with fund from IFAD, the Adaption fund, OPEC fund for International Development (OFID), the Private Sector and Government of Sierra Leone. The Deputy Minister of Finance, Patricia Laverley, explained that 73 percent which is $21.5m of the total $28.5m is loan while the remaining 27 percent, that is $7m is a grant, describing it as concessional loan and grant. According to her, Agricultural development remains key to the country’s economic development and rural poverty reduction and therefore considered untapped potential for improving production and productivity of staple and cash crops. The project will focus on rice, cocoa and oil palm despite the fact that the larger share of the budget will be devoted to rice production in the inland valley swamps, consistent with Government priorities, she assured, maintaining part of its resources will also be focused on horticulture; vegetable and tubers. The Finance Deputy Minister explained the Agriculture Value Chain Development Project (AVDP) will promote crop diversification and provide flexibility and choice to beneficiaries and support improved nutrition.
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The IFAD Director of West and Central Africa Division, Lisandro Martin, said IFAD have financed nine operations in Sierra Leone within the last 20 to 25 years, disclosing that at present the Sierra Leone government have a portfolio finance with IFAD resources in the tune of $120m which has continued to increase. The increase according to him was as a result of the proper utilization of resources allocated to the government by IFAD, which have a very complex formula in allocating funds as a very important rating is being given to the government. According to him, there was an evaluation that commenced early this year and have ended recently which is why they are Organising a workshop where they will disclose their findings and see how best they can improve on the area where such is needed. He however expressed appreciation on government effort towards improving access to financial resources by women and young people, adding they also agreed on improving access to finance is extended to agriculture to enable farmers who have increased their productions connect to the market. The IFAD Country Director for Liberia and Sierra Leone, Jakob Tuborgh, said they have started discussion with government about a month ago on the country’s new strategy, which according to him is in line with Government National Development Plan. According to him, the strategic objectives of IFAD’s further involvement in support to the country revolves around support to improve performance of value chains to make sure the necessary optic of smallholder produce, further financial inclusion with clear focus of expanding it to the agricultural sector and improving knowledge and data management in the agriculture sector that will improve access to data to government for decision making. The Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Samking Braima, said the $28.5m loan and grant is the second additional agreement signed that is part of the $80m plus project under the Agriculture Value Chain Development Project. He said the important aspect of the project is that based on government continuous proper utilization of the resources additional funds will be allocated which may increase to $102m in the year 2020. This project he said will definitely lead to food sufficiency within the shortest possible time after the selection of beneficiaries that is ongoing presently across the country to effect proper commencement of operation.
By Alhaji Manika Kamara
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