With the food crisis made acute by the increasing prices of a 50kg bag of rice in the local markets visitors to ‘Sweet Bo’ the second city may well feel that the lush green rice farm which welcomes them to the second city is the answer to all the country’s food problems.
This lush green well planned and well irrigated swamp land was established in 2002 by the Chinese as part of their technical cooperation program in the agricultural sector to help the country in its then drive for increased yield from the different varieties of rice.
Fondly dubbed ‘China Farm’ the well developed swamp land was used as an experimental area for seed multiplication which were in turn distributed to farmers district wide.
The Supervisor at the China Farm Mr Sumaila Massaquoi who is also an employee of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security disclosed that the Chinese were working in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture which provides the labour and the Chinese provide the inputs and implements to run the experimental farm.
Seed varieties are brought in from China which are either mixed (cross-breed) with other varieties of rice or are planted to test their suitability or adaptability to the soil and climatic conditions here
He explained that they produce Chinese hybrid seeds with parental lines which are the R1 (restoral line), R2 and A-line which supports the restoral line to produce the F1. This he said is got from crossing the rice which is bred at the farm. This newly bred variety is later distributed to farmers. The rice he went is not only meant for farmers but also for consumption as it could not be recycled. This he said is because it loses most of its contents and characters.
He also pointed out another variety demonstrated at the farm which he said was from China. “We did one which is called “Yanshualuohao” and its performance was so good – its output was 4.5 tons per hectares” which is equivalent to 90 bags of rice for one hectare. Because of this huge output Mr massaquoi pointed out that they have decided to distribute this variety to farmers for planting this year. This is expected to substantially increase the quantum of rice produced during this years farming.
This new variety he explained was a conventional seed and is recycled (grows again and again) leaving it leaves still green, it stems thick and it also has high lodging resistance as it does not fall when the water level in the swamp goes down.
Mr Massaquoi further explained that there were other varieties also experimented on the farm to know which best suits the farmers. He disclosed that the number of farmers has increased to over 250 farm families which have been registered so far this year.
He however lamented that they were working on a two hectare of land which he said was very small to match up with the growing number of farmers.
Speaking about their problems he said “our constraint is labour as the production of the Chinese hybrid seed is at times bounded and we need enough labour to do it. We also lack the logistics like rain boots, gears and mobility because we need to cover the 11 chiefdoms we are supplying our seeds. If we are not mobile we find it very difficult to monitor the farmers or advise them. There is only one vehicle which is used by the Chinese and most times the vehicle is in Freetown.
Experimental farms like these could well be the answer to resolving our food crisis only if the workers are provided with the necessary support to actively carry out their work diligently. By Ishmael Bayoh just back from Bo