By Tamba Borbor(Public Relations Officer WHH Sierra Leone)
Welthungerhilfe (WHH) Sierra Leone has successfully promoted the country’s Organic Cocoa at this year’s BIOFAC Trade Fair through its “Agribusiness Development from Organic Resources (ADORE) Project implemented in Eastern Sierra Leone with funding from the European Union (EU) under the Boosting Agriculture and Food Security (BAFS) Project portfolio.
The annual Event was held from 14th to 17th February 2023 in Nuremburg, Germany and is the World’s leading Trade Fair for Organic Food producers, buyers, marketers, policy makers, academics and others involved in the organic food supply value chain.
This year’s participation of Sierra Leone was sponsored by ADORE Project and the Team comprised the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF)- Dr. Abu Bakarr Karim, Focal Person for Non-Governmental Organisations in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry- Yayah Mansaray and Yatta Sama who is the Executive Director of MOAWOMA Women’s Cooperative in Kenema District.
Speaking to George Muigai,the Head of ADORE Project about event, he stated that it was very successful and served as an opportunity to meet with different stakeholders and cocoa buyers in Europe and other parts of the world in a bid to better position Sierra Leone’s organic cocoa at the international stage; adding that their participation was exciting.
He maintained that organic cocoa produced in Sierra Leone is acclaimed as one of the best internationally in terms of quality while also stating that as a project, ADORE aims to ensure the country practices organic agriculture by design and not by default.
“While our main focus and objective was to source international buyers and marketers, we also had the chance to meet different companies that are undertaking cocoa value chain development, financing for cocoa producers in addition to Government officials that support cocoa producers in third world countries like Sierra Leone,” George Muigai said.
He however recommended to the Government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) the need for the country to have a permanent Booth at all future BIOFAC Exhibitions to enhance visibility of the Sierra Leone’s organic cocoa potential in addition to other organic products.
“This will open up a lot of opportunities which the country can tap into for development of the agricultural sector,” the Head of ADORE Project stated.
He thanked Sierra Leone for maintaining the organic integrity of cocoa production in the country and make organic cocoa production by design not by default in other to keep up with the emerging dynamics in the sector.
The Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr. Abu Bakarr Karim expressed how “greatly honoured” he was to be at the 2023 edition of the world-renowned BIOFAC Trade Fair in the historic city of Nuremburg, Germany, and to be chosen as one of the speakers to discuss and engage with key policymakers and advocates at the highest level for a sustainable food system in the African continent.
Dr. Karim noted that agriculture is the largest contributor to Sierra Leone’s GDP, accounting for about half of the economy, and employs 65 to 70% of Sierra Leoneans; adding that ADORE’s three key outcomes are aligned with his Ministry’s Sector Strategic Plan.
The Minister stated that historically, cocoa and coffee have constituted two of Sierra Leone’s main crop-based foreign exchange earners; adding that the 2015 Census Results states that a total of 3,164,472hectares of land was under tree crop production (Coffee, Cocoa, Oil palm, Citruses and Cashew), with cocoa accounting for 235,749 hectares of land.
Dr. Karim maintained that the support of Welthungerhilfe (WHH) Sierra Leone and other partners has been central to “our achievements in most of those initiatives.”
He informed that with WHH projects in five years 40,000 families will be able to live from their harvests stimulated by the successfully piloted cocoa cooperatives systems that have seen farmers selling harvested cocoa directly to the exporter, circumventing the exploitative middlemen system.
The Minister of Agriculture and Forestry however appealed to WHH, and other international partners “to help us to build and market Sierra Leone’s organic and agro-ecological credentials, particular in relation to Cocoa, Coffee, Oil Palm and Cashew,” while urging all to make Sierra Leone’s organic cocoa world better and, support a transformation of organic cocoa and other cash crops value addition in the country.
Yatta Sama, the Director of MOAWOMA Rural Women’s Cocoa Development Cooperative Society thanked WHH for the support to participate in the BIOFAC 2023.
She disclosed that the Exhibition provided an invaluable platform for her Cooperative to interact and meet with international organic cocoa buyers and marketers which has added value to their work.
“Most of the international organizations and companies like Cocoa Source, International Trade Centre were impressed with and interested in our cocoa as it was tested and confirmed to be one hundred percent organic. Most of them have expressed commitment to provide financial support to us to undertake early buying of cocoa this year,” she explained.
The MOAWOMA Cooperative Director highlighted the challenges faced through unhealthy competition with foreign buyers in the Sierra Leone cocoa market who do not adhere to the regulations of the Produce Monitoring Board (PMB).
“BIOFAC has really opened new doors to our Cooperative which has undoubtedly added value to our operations both nationally and internationally,” Yatta Sama stated.