By Foday Moriba Conteh
During a recent Press Conference held at the SLeCAD’s office on Bathurst Street in Freetown on Tuesday 10th October, 2023, the Sierra Leone Chamber for Agribusiness Development (SLeCAD) made a compelling appeal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the international community. The organization urged them to consider restructuring and cancelling Sierra Leone’s debt, citing the country’s current GDP to Debt Ratio standing at a concerning 90-92%. The call came as part of SLeCAD’s efforts to bolster Government’s investments in the agriculture sector, particularly the Feed Salone initiative.
Ahmed Nanoh, the Executive Secretary of SLeCAD, expressed strong support for Feed Salone, highlighting the Government’s commitment to prioritize agriculture as a flagship program. His emphasis on agriculture marks a significant departure, with Sierra Leone’s Government making agriculture its foremost priority for the first time.
He commended the Government’s initiative to elevate national budget support for agriculture from 2.6% to 10% and viewed it as a significant step in fulfilling the commitments of the MAPUTO Declaration, signaling Government’s strong dedication to agricultural development.
The Executive Secretary emphasized the importance of the Government’s commitment to collaborate with leading private sector umbrella organizations. This collaboration would involve entities such as NAFFSL, SLeCAD, Chamber of Commerce, SMEDA, and the Local Content Agency, all of which play vital roles in strengthening the agricultural sector.
He called on the Government to conduct feasibility studies that encourage and attract private sector investments in agriculture adding that such studies would align with the objectives of the Feed Salone Initiative and promote sector growth.
Ahmed Nanoh stressed the need for support in establishing agriculture insurance mechanisms maintain that those mechanisms would serve to de-risk the agricultural sector making it more attractive to private investors.
He further advocated for the mapping and registration of lands owned by Sierra Leoneans saying a process like that would enable land to be used as collateral, facilitating access to financing for agricultural projects.
The Executive Secretary called for a review of Advance Payment Guarantees (APG) and Letter of Credit (LC) processes to better support agricultural endeavors and encouraged the Ministry of Agriculture to utilize the Agribusiness Investment Policy funded by the World Bank/SCADeP to promote the Feed Salone Initiative.
He emphasized the importance of improving both hard and soft skills, as well as promoting the necessary mindset shifts required to support private sector investment effectively.
Nanoh encouraged mining companies to consider contributing to Government efforts aimed at realizing the Feed Salone initiative. This could potentially involve increasing their contributions beyond the current 3% royalties.
He also called on all development partners to generously fund the Feed Salone Programme. This support would significantly enhance food security, reduce poverty, create jobs and wealth, and foster inclusive growth.
In conclusion, Ahmed Nanoh’s statements underscored the critical role of peace and unity in Sierra Leone’s development agenda through the Feed Salone initiative. The Executive Secretary concluded by urging all sides of the present and past Governments and all citizens to prioritize peace and align their focus with the country’s development goals, emphasizing that without peace, development efforts may prove futile, and poverty could persist.