KAMBIA, June 10, 2014, 2014 –With the introduction of new variety of rice to his one acre plot, Adekalie Kamara is more excited about this year’s harvest than ever before.
Kamara is one of thousands of rice farmers benefitting from the new System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which supports farmers with herbicides, organic fertilizers and new farming methods such as single-seed planting with wide spacing, rather than the traditional cluster method. The new approach will increase the yield and prevents weeds on the farm, reducing the amount of labor needed to tend to the crop.
“With this SRI system, I do not need to bring my wife and children to weed the farm and it gives me hope of a good reward for my hard work,” Kamara said. “With such a high productivity, it might very well take me out of poverty. It also gives my children enough time to concentrate on their studies.”
The SRI system is just one part of the implementation of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP) in Sierra Leone.
“The objective of WAAPP is to generate improved agricultural technologies in several West African countries, and facilitate their adoption based on the countries’ top agricultural priorities,” said Francis Ato-Brown, World Bank Country Manager in Sierra Leone.
The Kambia District in North Sierra Leone is considered the main rice bowl of the country with its large agricultural zone, extensive swamps dominated by mangroves, and large river estuaries. Although a 2011 household survey showed a higher than average productivity level for rice from 2003 – 2011, yields still remained below their potential, making Sierra Leone a main importer of rice in 2011.
“So far the project has reached 18,724 beneficiaries, of which 48% are female and about 1,056 hectares have been put under cultivation with improved varieties,” said Hardwick Tchale, World Bank co-Task Team Leader of the WAAPP. “About 10,865 farmers have adopted the improved varieties made available under the project.”
In addition to the SRI, the WAAPP also supports the resuscitation and repositioning of the Sierra Leone Research Institute (SLARI) at Rokupr in the Kambia District. Established in 1934, the institute was a center of excellence for agricultural research in West Africa. But like many other institutions in Sierra Leone, it had declined and was completely destroyed during 11-year war.
According to Dr. Bert Meertens, rice research coordinator at the institute, there are about 40 researchers, most of whom are junior research officers undergoing training on new farming technologies. The project also has a research component to establish a state of the art laboratory, which will effectively restore the institute to its former glory as the hub for rice research in West Africa, Meertens said. The project also provided the institute with fiber and wooden boats to facilitate the researchers’ movement in the riverine areas.
The project also supports postgraduate and refresher courses to benefit researchers. In October 2013, WAAPP-Sierra Leone, with funding by the World Bank and the Japanese government, sponsored 41 staff from the Agriculture Ministry and the SLARI for different postgraduate courses in Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone universities.