As food prices hike globally, the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) and Irish Aid have supported the Agricultural Business Unit (ABU) project to capacitate local farmers in Sierra Leone to embark on commercialized farming.
This pilot project which intends to reinforce the development of ABU trainees through adult literacy programmes, is aimed at empowering three thousand youth in three cities- Kambia, Kono and Bo.
At the conclusion of a five-day training of trainers workshop on the use of the guide and adult literacy methodologies for ABU’s farmers, at GTZ hall in Kono city on Thursday, the chairman of the occasion, James Ellie thanked the UNDP and Irish Aid for the support given to the ABU project, and lauded the adult literacy initiative which was being incorporated as part of the project.
He called for a monitoring mechanism, in order to ensure the sustainability of the project.
In her statement, UNDP Agriculture Specialist, Manila Watta Sankoh assured all of an adequate mechanism to monitor the programme, adding that “the monitoring is going to start from the very beginning i.e. with the distribution of materials;” which she said, “they [the trained facilitators] are going to sign before receiving it.”
“We rely on district education staff for monitoring,” Mrs Sankoh said, pointing out that communal monitoring is much more, better for the sustainability of the project.
She explained that when the project started initially, the feedback received was that farmers cannot read and write adding that this poses a serious problem for the project as they would not be able to adequately embark on agriculture as a business.
Mrs Sankoh said that this is the reason for the second phase of the project- the adult literacy component.
She disclosed that the reason for choosing the ABU’s is because of their commitment to the project, maintaining “you are the ambassadors of this project.”
In his statement, Sahr Faeduwor of Sowa Chiefdom said that the project is unique as it marks a mile stone for the improvement of agriculture in the district.
He assured all of transmitting the knowledge and skills gained to colleague farmers and thanked the donors for their support.
Highlighting problems faced by the project over the years, he said, “ABU farmer group was instituted in Kono city four years ago,” adding that late and inadequate supply of seeds and poor motivation have affected the growth of the project.
He noted that until these factors are adequately addressed ABU farmers will not be able to achieve food security.
Patrick Kellie of Tankoro Chiefdom commended the initiators of the programme, and advised stakeholders and beneficiaries to take the project as theirs for its development
In his statement, Gbane Chiefdom representative, Patrick Unisa appealed for protective gears in the dispensation of their agricultural activities.
Deputy District director, Sam Koroma said that the 33 facilitators trained from four chiefdoms namely: Soa, Nimikoro Gbane and Tankoro have acquired skills in adult literacy methodologies especially factors dealing with adult learning such as numeric and literacy skills, basic farming and record keeping.
He encouraged the facilitators to take agriculture as a business rather than for subsistence farming, urging them to use appropriate methods to increase their acreage.
In another development, the Farmer Field School (FFS) have been merged with the ABU project.
The project has seen the necessity to merge both the FFS who were trained in mechanized farming and the ABU who were trained in commercialized farming to yield maximum output.
The FFS who were trained in mechanical methods of agriculture were awarded certificates.