Sierra Leone News: MAF Gets 275 Metric Tons Seeds from SCADeP

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In a bid to transform the seed system in the country, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry through the Smallholder Commercialization and Agribusiness Development Project (SCADeP) has procured fifty metric tons of foundation seeds and two hundred and twenty five metric tons of certified NERICA L 19 rice seeds for the farmers in Sierra Leone. The two hundred and seventy five (275) metric tons of improved variety of rice seeds is part of a seven hundred metric tons of improved rice seeds which the government intends to utilize for the creation of a sustainable seed system in the country. The seeds which were brought in from Burkina Faso will be distributed to farmers throughout the country.

The SCADeP procured seeds were formally handed over to MAF in a brief ceremony held on the 10th June at the Port Loko MAF store. The formal handing over was done by Sulaiman Sesay, SCADeP Project Coordinator. Chairperson of the ceremony, Madam Fatamata Mustapha, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture recalled the President’s declaration that his government will turn its attention to the agricultural sector because he believes that if farmers are supported we can feed ourselves as a nation.

She went on to state that the President had said that the country is tired of depending on rice imported for food noting that he will go all out to help farmers as there are plenty master farmers in the country. She noted that the seeds were procured by SCADeP through the support of the World Bank and that the complete 700 tons will be coming from Vietnam, Nigeria and Burkina Faso. She stressed that the government knows about the numerous problems in the sector and is willing and ready to help.

In her statement, the Resident Minister of the Northwest Madam Haja Isata Kamara maintained that farmers are currently suffering hunger because they lack food noting that the women farmers especially are in difficult conditions because they lack tractors for ploughing the land. She said she is happy for the seeds noting that Port Loko District is very fertile and that if due attention and support is given to Port Loko that district alone can feed the rest of the country. The Minister noted that there are huge hectares of land comprising of diverse ecologies suitable to cultivate rice in the district.

Formally handing over the seeds, SCADeP Project Coordinator, Sulaiman Sesay, said that the SCADeP project came about as a result of the need for farmers to make money through agricultural activities. The approach of the project to achieve this he explained, is to link big agribusiness with smallholder farmers through a relationship that establishes a market for smallholder farmers to sell their produce. The big agribusinesses as buyers can also process and sell to markets. “Once we are able to achieve this, we would be able to commercialize both what the big and small farmers have” he said. Mr. Sulaiman also noted that in that vein there are two areas of support by SCADeP which are productivity increase which is aimed at helping farmers to produce more in the same piece of land while the second is for them to be able to have a sure market to sell.

The improved rice seeds being handed over to the Ministry, he noted, is to promote the productivity aspect of SCADeP’s support. “To increase productivity, one of the major elements is the quality of the seeds you have without which there can be no good harvest, that is why the Ministry of Agriculture which owns SCADeP approached it to talk to the World Bank to provide some funding to buy seeds in line with the Government’s agenda,” he pointed.

The seed is not just for this planting season but for subsequent seasons as the foundation seeds will be multiplied for the following planting season. Mr. Sulaiman Sesay formally handed over the seeds to the Deputy Minister of Agriculture thanking the Minister of Agriculture and his team and his project team for their efforts in making the realization of the seeds to come true. He also thanked the farmers for their presence calling on the farmers to utilize the seeds well.

In his keynote address, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Sam King Braima said it is the hard work of many people that has made the day possible starting with the leadership of the Hon. Minister of Agriculture who first ensured that the seed system is evaluated when he took office. During the evaluation, it was realized that the seed system was in a bad state as farmers were planting grains instead of certified seeds. Farmers were in a situation where they planted their seeds from which they eat, sell and replant in the following year which was an unacceptable state of things for the Ministry.

It is for this reason that the Ministry came up with a national strategy document in the form of a national agricultural transformation program which is a master plan to address all agricultural issues including the seed system in the country. The evaluation also identified that the research capability in the country is very poor because the Sierra Leone Agricultural Institute did not have the means to produce breeder seeds that could be moved to the next sector to multiply it for the Government. In another vein, the evaluation found out that the seed multiplication system of the Ministry and other private sector institutions needed immediate support.

The Ministry therefore realized that it needed the support of private sector players like Genesis Farm and Seed Tech International to help in the multiplication of quality seeds to help farmers get the adequate inputs for higher yields.

Because the Ministry would not want to depend on importation of seeds from places like Burkina Faso year in and year out, the Ministry stands ready to support it farmers. The Ministry’s intervention is therefore going to be two fold, one will be to arrest the declining seed sector and mitigate the challenge of farmers having to plant bad planting materials every year by bringing in as a short term measure, quality seeds from neighbouring countries.

The second part is for the Ministry to urge the Government to put in heavy funding in the seed sector so that we will be producing our own certified seeds in country.  The first part is what led the Government to approach the World Bank through SCADeP for the procurement of the certified seed which is over six hundred metric tons that is equivalent to nine thousand fifty kilograms bags of seeds and over seventy five metric tons of foundation seeds equivalent to over three hundred and fifty kilograms bags of seeds.

It is also important to note that we have also said we should bring in international experts to join our local experts to improve seed production in the country. The Ministry also seeks to work with the Sierra Leone Seed certification Agency (SLESCA) to certify seeds being produced in the country. Mr. Braima noted that the seeds have not come in late because it is not meant for upland or slash and burn farmers. “We are concentrating on lowland cultivation.

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