One of Sierra Leone’s leading researchers and founder of the Nerica Rice Professor Monty Jones who also doubles as the Executive Director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) over the weekend delivered a lecture on agricultural development, rice production and national self sufficiency.
This is the first annual lecture dinner organized by the Sierra Leone Centre for Agribusiness Development held at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown which brought together officers of the Agriculture Ministry, Lecturers and students from Njala University and officers from the private sector involved in agribusiness.
The Sierra Leone Centre for Agribusiness Development (SLCAD) has drafted a strategic plan which states that agriculture including fishing and forestry as the mainstay of the economy contributing about 46% of the GDP and providing employment for about 75% of the population.
Speaking at the Lecture forum, Professor Monty Jones illustrated the enormous potential for agricultural development within Sierra Leones as on average “each of us consume 104kg of rice in a year which is amongst the highest in Sub Saharan Africa and for that we need about 530,000 metric tons of milled rice” he said.
He also spoke about many technical and policy issues that still have to be addressed to make our agriculture more productive in Sierra Leone and explained that enabling the farmers to acquire new knowledge through access to information, developing new yields enhancing technologies such as improved varieties by providing better quality seeds and improved husbandry techniques.
Professor Monty Jones also expressed the need for an improved crop handling and post harvest storage, processing and marketing and the need for making credit availability to procedures input suppliers and product buyers and processors without undue transaction costs.
He also spoke about depressed yields due to diseases, pests, low soil fertility, low yielding local varieties and post harvest losses due to poor crop management, inappropriate storage and marketing facilities.
Explaining further, Professor Monty Jones said government and donor projects which have tried to provide have been consistently disappointing and the clear lesson from that is Government must restrict its interventions to broad policy formulation and stimulation and providing support to private sector engagement in production and marketing.
Participants at the lecture forum also asked meaningful questions about agribusiness and progress made in New Zealand about agriculture development while the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Dr. Sam Sesay also made meaningful contributions about the way forward in agribusiness development in Sierra Leone.
By Saidu Bah