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Japan approves grant to assist farmers in rural Sierra Leone

By  | 17 April 2016 at 01:17 | 3350 views

Farmers in several communities in rural Sierra Leone will soon benefit from new structures and machinery, to help them improve their productivity and livelihood.

Five sections in the Yoni Chiefdom of Tonkolili district are to see the construction of three store houses and three concrete drying floors. Also, they will soon have access to power tillers (mechanized ploughs) that will ease their manual efforts in cultivating the land.

All these developments are due soon courtesy of the Government of Japan, through its diplomatic mission in Accra. The Embassy of Japan in Ghana (also accredited to Sierra Leone) recently approved financial support for these projects. Funding for this initiative had earlier been requested by Siera Grass-roots Agency (SIGA), a Sierra Leonean organization based in Freetown but operating in rural areas of the country.

The approved amount is US$53,097. It is to be paid out, under Japan’s Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGHSP) Scheme.

In a letter dated March 7, 2016 and addressed to SIGA’s executive director Vidal Roberts, the embassy’s First Secretary Yuki Takanashi (not in this photo) indicated that the funds will be disbursed as a grant.

Roberts showed The Patriotic Vanguard a copy of the proposal which SIGA had tendered, along with its application for assistance from Japan. In it, some 1200 families who engage in farming activities for their sustenance are expected to benefit directly. Among them are a significant number of families whose farming activities had been seriously compromised as a direct result of the Ebola crisis.

SIGA is confident that the new assistance will help improve the quality of their farming activities, which will in turn lead to an improvement in their sustenance. Specifically, the stores, drying floors, and power tillers would facilitate better land preparation ahead of actual cultivation of rice and other crops.

Secondly, there will be better facilities for the processing and storage of the harvest. Thirdly, the new store houses would not only improve safety and security for farming tools and accessories, they will ensure their proper maintenance. This should give more farmers secured access to more of these vital implements.

All these are key factors in the farming activities of families in the area.

Roberts told The Patriotic Vanguard in a recent interview:

"Our strategy is to help project participants to improve their own lot with dignity and confidence."

In measurable terms, the agency expects a 30 per cent increase in the both the quantity and quality of farmers’ harvest of rice and other farm products. These improvements should eventually lead to increases in respective household incomes by at least 30 percent. These projections are according to the figures put forward by SIGA.

Siera Grass-roots (spelling adopted by owners) Agency was founded in 1989. It is registered as an indigenous non-governmental organization, with a focus on community and rural development.

In each of its projects, SIGA adopts an integrated approach, working primarily with families and community leaders in a consultative, supportive role.

Roberts points out:

"We are primarily an agency, as we promote social and economic development."

According to the executive director, the new facilities and the power tillers will be owned by the chiefdom sections, and managed by their respective community leaders.

"We will be there only to give technical advice and help the committees to tackle their challenges themselves,"Roberts said.

The agency has been active in this part of Sierra Leone, from its operational base at Mile 91, since 2006. Well before the approval of this grant, SIGA had facilitated the formation and operation of 5-Persons Project Management Committees in each of the sections that are the targets of the NGOs operationing in the chiefdom.

In addition to agricultural projects, SIGA is involved in other aspects of the lives community members in this area of rural Sierra Leone including basic education, vocational training, and a micro-credit scheme for women’s associations.

One key component of its educational schemes has been the re-integration of children who had been fully engaged in farming activities, back into the local school system.

This is the second time that Japan has directly helped communities in this area. One of the buildings now being used in SIGA’s educational schemes was actually built through a similar grant from Japan. The six-classroom block was completed last year and is now fully operational.

"We are really grateful to the government and people of Japan," Roberts told PV.

"Each of these grants is a huge help in improving the lives of so many people."

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