FREETOWN, June 1, 2010—A rural agriculture project in Sierra Leone’s diamond-rich Kono district is helping the area’s farmers move from small-scale farming to larger scale production and international export.
The project aims to remove constraints to agricultural productivity and promote the marketing of agricultural produce domestically and internationally.
“Before we applied for the project, we never had a storage facility as an association because we had no money to embark on such a project,” said Sahr Fatorma, head of the Wolor Kumba Enterprise, a local cocoa and coffee farming cooperative in Kono. “Instead, we had to rent a small store in Koidu which restrained us from buying produce in large quantity, thus depriving us from doing business beyond the level of breaking even to make a profit.”
According to Fatorma, the storage facility being built with support from the World Bank-funded Rural and Private Sector Development Project of Sierra Leone will allow the farmers in his cooperative to buy more produce and increase sales.
The project also provides equipment and knowledge for farmers seeking to improve business.
“Our organization was also provided a moisture tester to test the moisture level of cocoa to know whether the seeds attain the moisture level that add more value to the produce,” said Hawa Sesay, another Kono district farmer.
“This has helped us in many ways, including sensitizing cocoa farmers about good post-harvest management strategies for cocoa and determining the quality of the cocoa produce we buy so that we can strengthen our bargaining position when re-selling to exporters.”
Plans to help the farmers increase international exports include improving rural market infrastructure to address critical infrastructure needs for exportable crop products, upgrading the country’s market and export infrastructure, introducing high yielding varieties of crops, improving product quality and standards, support identifying non-traditional exports and market opportunities, the creation of a market information system, and support to farmer-based organization and technology improvement.
In addition to supporting agribusiness groups, the Rural and Private Sector Development Project also is supporting the construction of 440 kilometers of feeder roads in all the country’s 13 agricultural districts. The objective is to link highly productive areas to markets where farmers can sell their commodities.
An important component of the project is monitoring which is built into the function of government unit implementing the project. Beyond that, the government has also asked local journalists to participate in the oversight process with the aim of providing timely and independent feedback on its implementation.
“We saw for ourselves in the field the fulfillment of precise actions promised in our national agenda,” said Zainab Kanu, a reporter of the Concord Times newspaper.
Kanu said the project directly supports the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, or PRSP, which outlines Sierra Leone’s development goals.
The PRSP pledges that “commercial agriculture will be promoted by creating an enabling environment that is attractive for the private sector to invest. Post-harvest storage facilities will be provided in the form of storage facilities, drying floors, rice mills, threshers, animal feed mills and abattoirs, feeder roads and community markets will be rehabilitated and or constructed to facilitate movement of goods to market places. Farmer based organizations are to be reformed and trained in order to build their capacity to engage in commercial agriculture.”
Kono is not the only district currently benefiting from the Rural and Private Sector Development Project. It also impacts communities in Kambia, Port Loko, Koinadugu, Bombali, Kono, Kailahun, Bo, Bonthe, Bombali, Kenema, Pujehun and Moyamba as well as the Western Rural Area and was approved by the World Bank Board of Directors in August 2009.