I traveled with my colleague Poindexter Sama to Moyamba and Bonthe Districts from the 15th-21st August 2009 investigating on rice production.
The Moyamba route was our first encounter. Despite work being done on the road large pot-holes has overtaken the best part of it.
We have all heard complaints of farmers especially those from Kailahun who have argued that their district was the bread basket of the country but should they have good roads on to Koindu, they cannot sell their produce and other goods in the lucrative Liberian and Guinean markets.
Many take these complaints for granted until you start traversing into the interior- then you will sympathize with them. That is exactly what I have got for these pitiful farmers and most largely the inhabitants in the chiefdom (May I say the forgotten Sierra Leoneans)
When we decided to visit a 1,325 acre farm managed by Hon. Jolly Boy Lavalie in Gbonje Village in the Kori Chiefdom, we hired a bike.
The 13.5 km road took us almost a day and we were lucky not to be hurt despite falling more than 15 times on that terrible road. The bike rider used that to extort more from us despite charging us exorbitantly to take us to the farm. Even on a bike, we had to come down and walk for long distances.
Apart from the bad roads, the few bridges are death traps as they can collapse any time. The situation was the same in all the areas we visited. That first expedition prepared us well for any eventuality for our next destination Mattru Jong. I have never been to Mattru although I have been educated from the town’s agricultural produce. Mattru road is now better compared to a whole day’s travel a year ago.
When we were in Mattru, the agricultural officers dampened out anxiety to go to Torma Bum by informing us of the bad state of the roads and bridges and also mosquitoes in the village. We also listened with fear how if we got there, we were going to spend two nights before we returning to Bo. To spend two nights in Torma Bum amidst talk of great mosquito bites was our greatest worry. We did not know how we reach the Bo lorry park pondering our fate in Torma Bum.
To make things worse for us, the drivers and apprentices told us more frightening tales which at the end made us more determined for the journey. Although we went to the Bo lorry park before 7 am we only left around 2: pm.When we finally begun the journey, we saw signs of what was told to us. The police officers made the side show of the journey and a cause for drivers to overload to offset the tips.
As we traveled along the bumpy road and alighting many times an interesting argument ensued which forced my colleague Sama to go berserk. A male passenger claimed that educationists in Sierra Leone have failed the nation and even indicted FBC of not contributing positively to the development of the country. Sama took time to explain to him that because the country still lacks the human resource and because the illiteracy rate is so high, that is why the country is not developed and shall continue to suffer from that.
You will not believe it that most of the passengers supported the claim despite Sama’s narrative citing examples and explanations. But what Sama was saying was not realistic to them; they could not ride on good roads, lack pure and available water, medical facilities, jobs and the lack of desire of the educated to transform the lives of the uneducated. Are they not right to make any statement against the educated?
That discussion kept our fears away but towards the evening and most of the passengers had alighted our fear arose as we asked many questions without waiting for answers. We were advised to sleep at Madina, seven miles to Torma Bum and we got a very kind man, Mohamed Bah who is also a farmer. He took us with his bike the following morning to Torma Bum and back to Koribondo which is about 50 miles.
When we were returning, we took the Jimmi Bagbo road where most of the bridges have collapsed and the road also worse. Our final destination, Koribondo was a great relief to us.
From what we gathered in all the farms we visited, I should conclude that without good roads, the agricultural activities the people are involved in will be meaningless.
By Ishmael Bayoh