By: Hawa Deen
Strategic Communications Unit,
Ministry of Information and Communications.
Friday, June 11 2021 was a momentous day for the people of Sierra Leone in general and Bonthe and Kambia in particular, as His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio launched the $34.12 Rice Value Chain Project in Torma Bum, Bonthe District.
The Chairman of the occasion, the Honourable Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh in his succinct remarks said that agriculture is the bedrock of the country’s economy. The Vice President said that before the ascendancy of the New Direction government, the agriculture sector was in disarray which impacted negatively on the livelihoods of the people, adding that their government is trying to bring it back on track. He emphasised that the New Direction government has put agriculture at the core of the economic diversification program. The eloquent Vice President expounded on the importance of agriculture saying that it boosts the economy and increases rice productivity. He explained the dire need for the people of this country to embark on massive agriculture in order for other sectors like education and health to thrive, adding that those three form the core of President Bio’s Human Capital Development.
Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh disclosed that the Rice Value Chain Development Project is jointly funded by the government of Sierra Leone, the Islamic Development Bank and Arab Bank for Economic Development for Africa (BADEA) and that it is a five-year project that will benefit 7000 smallholder farmers - 5000 in Bonthe and 2000 in Kambia
The Minister of Agriculture Dr Abu Karim in his statement said the project will support small and medium-scale farmers, and that government has procured over 400 tractors for commercial farming. Dr Karim called for more support to women in agriculture as a catalyst for a turnaround in the sector.Delivering the keynote address and launching the project, His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio thanked the IDB and BADEA for the consistent support to agriculture in Sierra Leone. President Bio said the project will alleviate poverty, increase rice productivity and boost the economy. “Instead of short term populist actions or pronouncing an overnight reduction in the price of a bag of rice for political propaganda purposes, we have worked on a permanent fix,” he said. The effulgent President Bio said that the price of our staple food (rice) has not been consistent in the world market and that has impacted negatively on food security drive in the country.
President Bio said hundreds of million dollars are spent in importing rice as a result of poor productivity back home and pledged his government’s commitment to reverse that trend. The president concluded his apt statement by appealing to the people of Bonthe and Kambia to embrace the project and ensure an increase in rice production and availability.
The high point of the program was the award of President Bio and First Lady Mrs Fatima Bio as champions of agriculture.