By Amin Kef Sesay
It was disclosed in Freetown on July 21, 2020 that the World Bank Board of Executive Directors has approved a $30 million International Development Association (IDA) grant to support agricultural productivity and access to markets for smallholder farmer-agribusiness in Sierra Leone.
From what this medium understood, this additional financing for the Smallholder Commercialization and Agribusiness Development Project (SCADeP) will enable the project to invest in roads and bridges to improve connectivity thereby providing access to more remote areas of high agricultural production.
Again it was learnt that specifically, it will help build critical bridges across key river crossing points currently served by manual cable ferries. These manual ferries are mostly out of service due to increasing risks of accidents particularly during the rainy season when water levels are high.
“The World Bank is focusing its interventions toward helping the agricultural sector recover quickly from the effects of COVID-19 and contribute toward higher medium- to long-term agricultural growth required to reduce poverty among smallholder farmers and promote inclusive growth,” stated Gayle Martin, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone furthering how the project is aligned with the economic diversification and growth agenda of the Government.
Smallholder farmers are the drivers of many economies and play an important role in promoting livelihoods and food security amongst the rural poor. The additional financing is strengthening productive business linkages between farmers and selected agribusiness firms and other commodity off-takers. It builds on the results achieved by the project and will scale up the provision of improved seeds and fertilizers to increase farmers’ productivity.
So far, the SCADeP project has supported the rehabilitation and maintenance of 166 km of feeder roads and the construction of 192 culverts and 6 bridges, thereby providing year-round access to farms, markets, schools and health centers for 77 communities in nine districts across the country.
Average travel time on these roads has seen a significant reduction from 20min/km to about 2min/km. Another key accomplishment is a study to assess the agribusiness/out-grower landscape in Sierra Leone. This framework is serving as a guideline for the creation of effective and mutually beneficial long-term partnership arrangements between farmers, nucleus commercial farmers, agro-processors and exporters.