Sierra Leone is well endowed with human and natural resources, which provide the impetus and urgency for development in the agricultural sector especially now that the war is behind us. But the continued bad governance in the country with the natural resources that virtually has no meaning to us, the poverty rate keeps rising everyday.
Massive unemployment, underemployment and chronic food insecurity constitute a vicious cycle for the predominantly rural population mired in poverty and destitution. But another main reason why this group of people continues to suffer under the same set of politicians is illiteracy. These rural poor people have been constantly used and misused by the politicians because of lack of understanding.
A country the British left and expected to be one of the prosperous nations in the continent has consistently been ranked at the bottom of the Human Development Index since 1999. The country’s population is about five million with national resources that can turn the country into a paradise, but the wicked, greedy and heartless politicians succeeded in turning us to beggars in spite of such riches.
The current life expectancy is 37 years, no wonder since last year to now, many young people of that age are changing life for eternity, but they still don’t care, instead they shamed themselves by honoring Ghaddafi as Honorary MP because they want to beg as they say. Low per capita annual income of about $300 is an insult to humanity, but these heartless politicians with no conscience are asking for $4,000 monthly salary, regardless of the present state of the country. Why did they want to be parliamentarians? Parliament is not for ‘dreg man’ it is for technocrats with pride, intelligence, vision and innovations, but that House that once commanded respect and dignity has been turned into a den.
The country’s poor health and nutritional standards has caught up in the complex and intractable problems and human insecurity, because food, shelter, clothing, water and health are now privilege and not basic rights in the country. Only the rich and strong survive. Our relatives in the Western world have been going through enormous stress to help us back home. The number of telephone calls and emails from Sierra Leone to England and USA especially, equal the local calls in the country.
When the war was raging, it was a valid excuse for the politicians as development can’t go on with war, now that the war is over, where is the development, what excuse can they give us now? With all the massive agricultural land in the country, yet, just a sizeable agricultural potential exists for the improvement of crop production, agro-based industries, fisheries and the opportunities for alternative livelihood creation, particularly among the weakest socioeconomic groups.
It is difficult to achieve food security but if the effort is seen across the country that the policies and innovations are implemented the people will be hopeful that sooner than later their lives will change gradually, but there are no signs instead the tractors donated sometime ago has turned to political chess boards moving from region to region as the power changes hands. The current issues inextricably affecting the country and every household is food security, taking into account the emerging trends in post conflict agricultural production and food security.
There are economic approaches advocated to improve food security in the country. The Western powers believe that maximizing the farmers profit will be the surest way of maximizing production; the higher the farmers profit the more effort they will make to increase production. But will it work in Sierra Leone where those heartless chiefs have the say over the lands. When a farmer becomes prosperous this year and is ready to increase his output by increasing the land space, will the chiefs be ready to give them the land or maybe the existing land will be taken from them or the cost of the land will be 10 times its value.
This is why the land tenure system should be unified in the country to give every Sierra Leone the same opportunity be you Krio or Limba or Temne, we are Sierra Leoneans and we should have the same privileges across the board. But the politicians are not ready for that yet as some of them are still poor and their focus is where they will make fast and easy money for themselves.
Some analysts believe it is the government’s job to place into the hands of farmers the largest number and highest quality tools to improve production techniques, improved seeds, secure land tenure, accurate weather forecasts and any other means to help them achieve success. However, it is left to the individual farmer to pick and choose which tools to use, and how to use them.
Another view is the collective approach to achieve food security. Globally enough food is produced to feed the entire world population at a level adequate to ensure that everyone can be free of hunger and starvation. No one should live without enough food because of economic constraints or social inequalities are the basic goal.
This food justice approach views food security as a basic human right, advocating fair distribution of food, as a means of ending chronic hunger and malnutrition.
I disagree with this theory, because how can a country be devoted to feed and take good care of its citizens while another government is busy accumulating the wealth for themselves. For example, China 30 years ago, things were not pleasant, life was tough for them, and then came a leader who has vision and innovation of changing this populous country’s dark path to a more productive nation. Presently, China is able to feed its people and have enough surpluses in case of the current climate change.
Sierra Leone leaders for the past 30 years have been plunging the country into the depth of poverty by grabbing and sharing the wealth amongst themselves. Most of the politicians in the last 30 years in the country have built several houses driving posh cars at the expense of the poor. No visions or innovation to change the plight of their citizens.
Is it right for a working and progressive nation to take part in this food justice system, I don’t think so. In life we should admire and aspire great people and try to follow their foot steps. In China, I always admire the Chinese students in the university as they will tell us they want to speak the American English, they want to dress the American way.
The reason is because they know America is a great and developed nation with many good things and opportunities. Most of their English way of life, television programs are all American flavored. The just concluded Olympics their target was America and nobody else. This has given them the opportunity to continue to develop with great speed. If our leaders too have such passion and love for the country, then Sierra Leone will be a paradise on earth.
The core of the Food Justice movement is the belief that what is lacking is not food, but the political will to fairly distribute food regardless of the recipient’s ability to pay. This will be accepted whole heartedly by our governments, but even if this food justice is implemented, I bet the developed world, Africa’s poverty or food insecurity will not end because the grains will be used as a political tool.
Former US president Bill Clinton in a UN gathering sometime ago said that the global food crisis was their fault because they did not treat it with vital importance it deserves. He criticized the policy making of World Bank and IMF for pressuring African governments in dropping subsidies for fertilizer, improved seed and other farm inputs as a requirement to get aid. He averred that Africa’s food self-sufficiency declined and food imports rose and that is the result of food insecurity.
Food is not a commodity like others. We should go back to a policy of maximum food self-sufficiency. It is crazy for us to think we can develop countries around the world without increasing their ability to feed themselves.
The third approach is known as food sovereignty; though it overlaps with food justice on several points, the two are not identical. It views the business practices of multinational corporations as a form of neocolonialism. It contends that multinational corporations have the financial resources available to buy up the agricultural resources of impoverished nations, particularly in the tropics.
They also have the political clout to convert these resources to the exclusive production of cash crops for sale to industrialized nations outside of the tropics, and in the process to squeeze the poor off of the more productive lands. Under this view subsistence farmers are left to cultivate only on lands that are as marginal in terms of productivity as to be of no interest to the multinational corporations.
It advocates banning the production of most cash crops in developing nations, thereby leaving the local farmers to concentrate on subsistence crops. In addition it opposes allowing low-cost subsidized food from industrialized nations into developing countries, what is referred to as import dumping.
All these theories in my opinion will not solve our problem unless our government put the right modalities in place to encourage everyone who has the skills and finance to go into agriculture. The government should be the security and also the financier to see that their goal is achieved. Instead of always begging Ghadaffi and making him Honorary MP, why don’t they get the Indian Government, the Chinese government to invest massively in Agriculture?
This is what Japan is doing now in South America investing millions of dollars in mechanized farming in Chile and Argentina. This will be very productive in solving our food security and poverty problems in the years to come.
The just concluded G8 Summit in L’Aquila has seen the powers that be, adopting the initiative on Food Safety pledging their support to rural development in the world’s poorer countries by setting a $20 million fund. Their declaration on food safety and security will boot resources while bringing down trade barriers and fostering sustainable development and fighting poverty. It was agreed that a world with less poverty and inequality is also a fairer, safer and stable world.