Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – Solidaridad West Africa, in collaboration with representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, various ministries, departments, agencies, and farmers, has successfully concluded a two-day validation engagement aimed at finalizing Sierra Leone’s first National Oil Palm Value Chain Policy and its implementation plan.
The comprehensive two-day engagement took place at the Sierra Palm Resort Hotel in Aberdeen, Freetown, and falls under the RECLAIM Sustainability Program. This initiative is designed to support the government in creating a policy focused on enhancing the oil palm value chain within the country.
The RECLAIM Sustainability Program spans five years (2021-2025) and strives to contribute to a sustainable and inclusive global cocoa, oil palm, and gold value chain. The program aims to ensure that producers receive fair value for their produce and work under safe conditions, free from child labor. Additionally, it seeks to protect land rights and forests.
Implemented by Solidaridad in Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Cote D’Ivoire, the program operates with consortium partners TrustAfrica, Fairfood, and Business Watch Indonesia their collective efforts aim to advocate, accelerate disruptive innovations, and amplify citizen voices to drive positive change in trade and value chains.
Edward Sesay, representing the Conservation Society and serving as the National Coordinator of the project, emphasized that the process commenced in 2015 when a platform was established to host like-minded groups on agriculture and conservation. Notably, progress in the initiative has significantly advanced since Solidaridad’s intervention. Sesay expressed hope for a similar approach for other tree crops such as cocoa, cashew, and coffee to accelerate their respective value chains.
Sierra Leone is reported to be one of the highest per capita consumers of oil palm across West Africa. Didan Sankoh, the Director of Operations of the Produce Monitoring Board, highlighted the substantial economic value derived from oil palm and other tree crops. The board plays a crucial role in ensuring that sector standards are met, particularly for export purposes.
Addressing the gathering, Alexandre Serres, the Policy Officer for Infrastructure and Rural Development at the European Union delegation in Sierra Leone, referenced the 2019 value chain analysis, revealing a traditionally ill sector characterized by artisanal farming driven by either inaccurate or nonexistent data. He stressed the importance of correcting this situation for sustainable growth.
In his keynote address, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Sahr Hermon emphasized Sierra Leone’s status as an agricultural economy and underscored the vital role of the tree crop industry. He noted that while cocoa, coffee, cashew, and oil palm are major tree crops grown in the country, oil palm accounts for a substantial 195,000 tons.
Andrew Kojo Morrison, the Country Representative for Solidaridad, characterized the event as a landmark toward the validation of the oil palm value chain policy. He expressed satisfaction with Solidaridad’s involvement in the drafting and validation process, emphasizing the significance of the policy in providing direction and achieving desired outcomes within the country.
Morrison highlighted the importance of having an implementation plan accompanying the policy, as it would offer direction and specify the funding needed for each section and value chain in the coming years. He stressed that a policy without a well-defined implementation plan is incomplete. MJB/17/11/2023