The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security and the Ministry of Trade in concert with World Food Programme and FAO recently held a one-day consultative meeting on rising food prices at the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNOSIL), Wilkinson road headquarter.
Participants were drawn from: UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, the EU, the World Bank, UNAIDS, and Coalition of Civil Society Organization (CSO’s).
Addressing the gathering, the Chairman of the meeting, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and food security, Dr Joseph Sam Sesay noted that the meeting was a follow-up on an earlier meeting which looked at the causes, opportunities and responses of Government and partners to the soaring food prices.
Highlighting government’s response to date, the Minister disclosed that among others, government has endeavoured to ensure the reduction of tariffs on imported food items, border control, public information, providing seeds to farmers and finally making available tractors to farmers.
“So far, about 86 tractors have been operational and about 36,310 acres of land have been plowed and 17,499 acres seeded,” he said.
He added that government has bought 71,000 bushels of seed rice to the tune of Le4.3 billion and about 42,639 bushels, which is 80 percent of requests received, have been distributed. On his part WFP, Country Director, Mr Felix Gomez, spoke about the response of the UN to the current food crisis at the UN Country Team (UNCT) level, which was to establish a sub-committee to monitor the situation, coordinating the response of UN agencies and liaising with Government. “The sub-committee,” he said, “looked at the situation from two levels: immediate response actions and medium to long term actions.” He furthered that national requirements of rice far outweighed production, which meant that more tons still needed to be imported to fill the gap. The immediate response actions included; creating access to food for the vulnerable through school feeding, nutrition support to mother, child health centers, and addressing urban youth unemployment which is also a security issue. “About 200,000 people including children, pregnant and lactating mothers and people living with HIV/AIDS were targeted with a budget of US$13.5 million,” he disclosed. The Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Country Representative, Mr Kevin Gellagher, spoke about the various activities the FAO has been supporting which includes the Agricultural Business Units (ABUs) and also introduced the joint mission. The Joint mission leader, Ms Angeline Rudakubana, in her presentation reviewed, refined and validated what both the government and the UN agencies have been doing in terms of response to soaring food prices and identified gaps and the way forward.
By Ophaniel Gooding