Agric. Ministry boosts rice production for food security

Awoko | 21 September 2011
Annette and Peter Pijpers, who operate and partly own Genesis Farms. The company is 70% owned by the Dutch company Drie Wilgen Development (DWD) B.V, through a €1.9 million investment, for which DWD has sought a World Bank MIGA guarantee of up to $2.8 million for a period of up to 15 years against the risks of transfer restriction, expropriation, and war and civil disturbance. According to documents on the MIGA website, Genesis Farms intends to establish three mechanized 250-hectare farms in the Port Loko District, Sierra Leone. The project is also supported by the Dutch government through its Private Sector Investeringsprogramma.

By Poindexter Sama

(Note: for background information on Nerica rice, see; GRAIN, Nerica - another trap for small farmers in Africa, January 2009)

The Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) has fostered private sector investment in rice production nationwide to boost the government’s Agenda for Change in the area of food sufficiency and commercialized farming.

A media assessment conducted past week in two regions of Sierra Leone ( South and North) revealed that enormous strides have been made by the government through the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security to increase rice production in the country in a bid to alleviate acrid poverty among Sierra Leoneans.

Most farms visited during the assessment tour, though privately owned, commended government and community efforts towards alleviating hunger and starvation marred by insufficient production of rice and other edible crops since the end of the eleven-year civil war.

At Mesimera village; a community situated approximately 13 kilometers away from Mathoir along the Bo Masiaka highway in Port Loko District, about 220 acres of land has been leased for 20 years cultivated by a private sector institution called ‘Genesis Farms,’ purely for the production of varieties of Nerica seed rice for further cultivation in other parts of the country since the demand for Nerica seed is greater than supply.

The Director of this multi-million mechanized Nerica rice project, Peter Pijpers, explained to journalists at his production site, that the land on which he has chosen to implement his three-year rice project is fertilized enough to accept crop cultivation for couple of years but however used imported fertilizers to ensure abundance in productivity.

He said the Nerica rice is harvested after three or four months of planting, apparently making it very pivotal in the government’s quest to actualize food sufficiency.

Operating his farm with 30-man power, Mr. Pijpers said “there are lots of wasted fertile lands in the country. But this being my first farm, I am prepared to use irrigation by accessing the nearby Rokel River to be able to utilize the land sufficiently and enhance long-term production.”

The Dutch national, Peter Pijpers, noted that in 2008, the Agriculture Ministry offered duty -free concession and other related supports geared towards strengthening Nerica rice production in Sierra Leone.

He said that at the harvest season, four tons of Nerica rice per acre is expected to be available in the markets and the agric ministry for local consumption and probably for export.

Mr. Saffa M. Kallon, the Project Coordinator of the Nerica Rice Dissemination of the Agric. Ministry, said “the government’s aim to improve Nerica production would enable farmers to develop their farming activities by using crops that quickly respond to the need for food either for the purposes of commercialized or subsistence farming.”

He said that the Nerica rice that will be produced at Genesis Farms, will be disseminated in Port Loko, Moyamba and Western Area.

Additionally, the Nerica rice production is extensively and more inclusively undertaken in a tiny village called Limba Corner, situated some few kilometers to Taiama where varieties of Nerica rice are also cultivated and preserved for future agricultural uses.

A private sector investment in rice production was also evident in a village called Gbankapoto in Sheborah Chiefdom, Bombali District, where the Member of Parliament, Hon. Alimamy Kamara of Constituency 29, has farmed over two hundred acres for the community, and has plan to increase to 300 acres in subsequent years.

Mr. Joseph Kamara who oversees the project explained how the farm has been helpful for the past five years in providing seed rice and grain rice for community consumption.

But he said that they are constrained with machinery and manpower to undergo most of the challenging activities which include the lack of storage facility and available mechanism to do weeding.

At Genesis Farms, where the Director has spent roughly two million dollars, it was noticed that operations of farm implements are hindered by the lack of expertise in rural communities to operate giant machines like combined harvester and the like.

Importation of fertilizers and repair of those machines are also huge challenges since the country lacks expertise to produce most of what is needed to carry on with farm activities.

The Information, Education and Communication Officer of the Agriculture Ministry, Mr. Samuel Serry Jr., giving brief background of the assessment tour said that the government of Sierra Leone and the Agric Ministry had committed huge resources in the agric sector of which, as part of democratic governance, members of the public from time to time need to be informed about progress made so far, especially issues relating to the implementation of the Smallholder Commercialization Programme which is a five year project.

The SCP, he said is a nationwide initiative aimed at increasing the productivity of Sierra Leone’s agricultural sector. He said it is part of President Koroma’s government’s top three priorities and it central to the fight against
Original source: Awoko

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