THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE AND FORESTRY OFFICIALLY LAUNCHED COVID-19 RESPONSE FOOD CROPS MULTIPLICATION PROJECT
On 7th December 2020, the Deputy Minister of Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Sam King Brima Officially Launched Covid-19 Response Food Crops Multiplication Project at N’jala Agricultural Research Centre (NARC) in Moyamba District, southern Sierra Leone.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI) seek to promote multiplication of seven food crops (improving planting materials) with high yielding potentials and nutritive value sourced from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria. The seven crops includes Cassava, Yam, Cowpea, Soya bean, African yam bean, Plantain and Maize.
In his statement, the deputy minister Hon. Sam-King Brima said that, for the nation to succeed in agriculture, we need to revive the activities of Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI), as a separate body, working independently to support our local farmers by providing high yielding materials to farmers across the country. He said that for research to be successful in Sierra Leone, the relationship between the university and SLARI should be very interactive.
The minister maintained that professionals from the university should be moving to the research institution. The students from the university should come and build the best practical research in the research institution for us to get best yielding planting materials for our local farmers. He reminded the stakeholders that the President is relies on their various institutions to make agriculture the growing basket of for the government of Sierra Leone. As ministers of the present government, he said they have often asked themselves these questions: “How can agriculture continue to provide for the country”, “How can we improve on our agricultural activities to improve on our yield to enhance economic development”. He said that this should be a joint collaboration by IITA, SLARI and the university itself.
According to the minister, after Sierra Leone was confirmed to have one Covid-19 case, the government decided to have an emergency Covid-19 response approach to support local farmers during the planting season. In their response as a ministry, thought of contacting SLARI through the current Ag. Director General and the Ag. Program Development and Management Officer to provide our local farmers with planting materials during the Covid-19 emergency response.
The Ag. Program Development and Management Officer at SLARI, Dr. Isata Kamanda worked so hard with the little support from the EU-Funded BAFS Project that was given to SLARI to provide farmers with planting materials in collaboration with IITA. The minister also said that, the importance of this project is for us to get more planting materials, which the ministry will distribute among our local farmers to help them commercialize our agricultural value chain in Sierra Leone.
The Ag. Director General Dr. Mathew L. S. Gboku for Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI), in his statement, said that SALRI has the mandate to do research on crops, livestock, fishery and forestry product, and to empower the stakeholders to actually utilize the end product of research. One major responsibility of this mandate is the multiplication of foundation seeds, and vegetative planting materials distribution to a broader number of farmers within the country. SLARI on annual basis engages in this multiplication of foundation seeds. SLARI’s challenges over the years has been related to the quantity that we multiply to meet the demand of farmers within the country.
Because of limited resources over the years, SLARI has not been able to meet the demand from the farmers. Nevertheless, he said, this opportunity brought so many lessons. The coming of Covid-19, is an opportunity for SLARI to do more. It has also brought an opportunity to strengthen SLARI’s relationship with the ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which its supervisory body.
He also said that since the WAP project ended in 2016, this is the first time that SLARI collaborates effectively with the ministry on multiplication of crop varieties and vegetative planting materials to make them available to the farmers. He further thanked the Director of NARC and his team for their active role in the multiplication of the seven food crops seed with the ministry to achieve one goal. He further stated that all the mandated crops which NARC are working on are been represented in these seven crops.
The Ag. Director General further mentioned few lessons learnt from the collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and what is needed to enhance continuity after the emergency. He stated the need to continue working with the farmers. According to the Ag. Director-General, the undermentioned are lessons from the seed multiplication project:
According to him, during his involvement in one of the discussions with CORAF, he was one of the six speakers identified from from Central and West Africa to talk on the impact of Covid-19 on agricultural activities with examples from the specific country of each speaker. All of the speakers said that there was a negative impact on the agricultural activities. It was based on this fact that the ministry came up with the proposal for seed multiplication so that farmers could be helped in 2021. The Ministry and SLARI developed a plan to actually help the farmers with planting seeds and then train them on how to make the best of these seeds. The team leader, Program Development and Management Officer Dr. Isata Kamanda did well in the implementation.
Dr. Abdul Rahman Conteh, the Ag. Director of N’jala Agricultural Research Centre (NARC) said during his presentation that the Covid-19 has led to the shortage of food and planting materials in the country. The ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with IITA and SLARI came up with the project to bring more improved planting materials from IITA in Nigeria. They conducted a survey on cassava from which they realized that 88% of the planting materials the farmers are receiving is from last year’s harvest.
The overall objective, according to Dr. Conteh is to provide planting materials to farmers across the country during this Covid-19 period. He said that they were able to train not only the farmers, but also the extension officers from MAF to help the farmers in the crop multiplication process. According to him, N’jala was selected because it has all the expertise needed to implement the Food Crops Multiplication project.
The deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) Mr. Charles Kamanda, representing the Permanent Secretary, said that in 2018, the ministry constructed the National Agricultural Transformation Plan, which is the blueprint for agricultural development across the country. This is a five-year activity plan that gives directives to the government. The National Agricultural Transformation Plan priorities the following: attainment of rice sufficiency and Crop diversification, e.g. the launching of the seven-food crops multiplication.
Mr. Sherriff, the Director General at Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) said that Civid-19 has been a new partner we are trying to live with. It has actually disrupted all our agricultural activities within the country. The coming of Covid-19 prompt the ministry to collaborate with SLARI for the multiplication project for the Covid-19 Emergency Response Program. He said that the collaboration between IITA and SLARI has been for a very long period. In 2008-2009, the ministry signed an MOU with IITA to open an office in Sierra Leone, which was a very big step for agricultural development in Sierra Leone. According to him, this MOU was a laudable idea, but this initiative died on the way.
The question of how can we get agriculture right came up in his statement. This project had been considered as the road leading to strengthening the relationship between SLARI and IITA. He proposed that the three institutions should go back to the drawing board asking what went wrong. He ended up by saying that the partnership between N’jala University and SLARI should be maintained for us to achieve the same goal at the end of the day. He also said the following questions must be answered: “Where did we go wrong?” Why are we spending so much on food we can produce in this country?”.
The DVC and Pro Chancellor of N’Jala University, welcome the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) Hon. Sam-King Brima to N’jala University. He also buttress that the three billions funding from government in very devastating. He accepted the fact that they went wrong by forgetting about the N’jala agricultural show, which used to be a great occasion in the past. It used to be one of the successful tree crops institution in West Africa. He made a clarion call for the Ministry and SLARI to work hand-in-hand with N’jala for us to address these issues without pay. He believes that this kind of relationship will help us as a country to address the challenges within the agricultural sector in Sierra Leone. The ministry should be the leading institution to lobby for the research activities in SLARI to be successful. He believes that the government cannot succeed in agriculture without investing in Agriculture.
The Dean of Agriculture at N’jala University said that the relationship between SLARI and N’jala could give out a good result. He appreciated the Ag. Director General for allowing his scientists to work with them cordially in the University activities. They as an academic institution believe that collaboration will help the two institutions to succeed in all their activities. He also made a request to the Ag. Director General of SLARI to support them as an academic institution with materials to train their students in their laboratories and experimental sites.
IITA’s Administrative Officer, Madam Isatu confirms in her statement that, the role of International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in this partnership with Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), through SLARI in the capacity building, technology deployment for IITA is key in the improvement of agriculture in Sierra Leone. She said that Covid-19 has disrupted economic activities not only Sierra Leone, but also the neighboring countries in the health, trade, access to food, income generation. In this regard, she said that IITA is working so hard to support Africans to improve agricultural technologies, which SLARI has been a major beneficiary in Sierra Leone to deliver planting materials to farmers to increase productivity in Sierra Leone.
According to her, they are also looking at the seeds system, which is an important part of the Ministry of Agriculture’s action on Covid-19 emergency response. For this, she said that the task cassava compact started in 2019 to assist NARC Scientists gain knowledge on the new licensed technology known as S.A.H, and 2/3 of NARC Scientists went to study in Nigeria. The project also went on to pay for a license that will enable NARC scientists to use the technology in Sierra Leone. It provided the start materials in order to use this technology in Sierra Leone. She ended up saying that the project is currently investing in the installation of solar power at the NARC building where the S.A.H technology will be used by NARC Scientists to amplify the multiplication of cassava seeds and hopefully to solve the challenges of cassava seeds supply in our country. The installation of the solar power at the S.A.H Lab is expected to support the sustainable seed system in the country.
Dr. Isata Kamanda, the Project Development and Management Officer, in her closing remarks said that the outbreak of the pandemic affected farming activities in Sierra Leone. The passion for our farmers in Sierra Leone was eminent during the crisis. SLARI did a Covid-19 response with EU, to distribute planting materials to farmers in the country. However, there was a challenge in sourcing out the planting materials, so it was decided that SLARI should contact IITA to support SLARI with the EU recommended seeds, which were shipped from Nigeria. She said that this is the first time SLARI is interacting with the crop officers from the ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
The launching ended up with site Visitation by the Hon. Minister Sam-King Brima.
The deputy Minister, Hon. Sam King Brima, together with his entourage visited the farm site to inspect the seven new food varieties on the N’jala experimental farm site. The Deputy Minister was pleased with the seed he saw at the farm site after going through all the sites. He ended up at the IITA Gari Processing Meal, where he suggested that the ministry, NARC and IITA should work very hard to see that the gari processing machine is operational.
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