The political importance of the Rokupr Rice Research Station

29 June 2008 at 20:25 | 975 views

By Essa Thaim-Kurugba, USA

Believe it or not, critics are rumor mongering when they say the Rokupr Rice Research Station is an academic and scientific institution and that politics should not interfere with the choice of Director or Deputy Director for the station.

My salient and foremost advice is this: Both technically and theoretically, that is not true. Politically, Kambia Central, where this facility is located, is a strategic part of the country. It is traditionally an APC stronghold and it is a border town. The station employs over 400 people and it is the main employer in the entire district.

This means that almost every family in the entire district is represented at the Rice Research Station, Rokupr. Workers in the station can therefore be considered political emissaries. The station has tremendous influence on activities in Kambia Central. The office of the Director, who controls the body and soul of this powerful establishment is, without exaggeration, the most important, dignified and august personality in Kambia Central.

It is my humble opinion that whoever becomes the Director or Deputy Director of the Rokupr Rice Research Station in theory becomes ambassador of the flag bearer(president) in Kambia Central. APC needs this seat and the entire Kambia District.

In 1982 I spearheaded, systematized and brought together youths and young voters from the shadows to vote for candidate Ibrahim Sorie. My position in the Finance Department at Rice Research Station, coupled with my political leadership among the youths both in Rokupr and Kambia, I was compelled to help Comrade Ibrahim Sorie’s ascendancy to political power.

Hon. Ibrahim Sorie was able to keep his political seat in spite of an SLPP Government and most certainly there was an SLPP Director at the research station who became the Minister of Agriculture.

Currently in the Diaspora in the State of Maryland as a Real Estate Consultant, also an active member of the National Association of Realtors, all these years of my absence had never been felt by the youths. Annually, I am able to rejuvenate the youths with financial and moral support on their annual Christmas masquerades parade for over ten years.

To be more concise and precise, during the 2007 electioneering, I relentlessly, inexorably and insistently over the phone, called to galvanize and fire up support from all the youths in and around Rokupr, Kambia and its townships to go to the polling stations and vote the APC for a change. The youths in Rokupr still regularly talk to me on the phone. During my ten years tenure in the Finance Department at that research station, I built sufficient political momentum over the years. Rokupr, Kambia and Rokupr Rice Research Station are one and the same. On the technical side, rice being a very sensitive commodity particularly in the current global economy, the Rice Research station continues to be in the spotlight.

Having said this, the Koroma Administration should consider a few, I mean very few qualified APC veterans to head this unit and other sensitive departments. As an institution, Rokupr Rice Research professionally has a history of failure, due to its failure to justify itself as an indispensable and viable entity. Being the agricultural bedrock of this nation and a custodian of the secrets in rice production in Sierra Leone and the entire West Africa, the Rice Research Station has its big share of failing the nation. To put it blatantly, its existence has been marred and by dissatisfaction and discontentment due to its inability to institutionalize and influence technological change. This is evidenced by the prevailing primitive and traditional farming methods still prevalent all over the country, a factor highly consistent with poor agricultural returns.

Sierra Leone, a country of only five million people with a very attractive ecological landscape for food production has mainly relied on food aid or imports over the years. The problem facing food production in Sierra Leone is monumental, epic and gargantuan but it is a naked fact that if we are to succeed in food production, we will have to depend on the researchers. The failure of this 70 year old institution to meet its objectives is sadly expressive of the public disappointment with its role of promoting self
sufficiency and its inability to avert crop failures in the farmers’ fields.

Such an assessment does not provide a promising background for past and future performance of this establishment. My presentation here is not assuming that Rice Research Station is squarely responsible for the inability of the country to feed itself. Of course, Rice Research may argue that its mandate is to do the research and present the findings. There is sense in this argument. There are a lot of issues when put together that are collectively stalling the progress of agriculture in the country.

Having said all this, with the dismal failure of Rokupr Rice Research Station, I believe the government should set up a monitoring group from the Board of Management that should not only act as a technical watchdog but should also ensure that the Rice Research Station continues to justify its very existence.

As of now, the Board of Management is mainly administrative and is mainly a rubber stamping group, most of whom are not agricultural scientists and do not question the institution in its technical operations. The political standpoints of the R.R.S., its professional and technical operation, are all interwoven, intertwined and need to be considered in choosing the next director and deputy director.

The APC government does not need a Director that would sabotage the aspirations of the Rice Research Station in its new beginnings to promote rice production. More than ever, the criteria should be that a new director needs to possess not only the academic qualifications and experience test but also the political test.

I am a patriot and a loyalist and I love my constituency, my district and my country.

Editor’s note: The author, Essa Thaim-Kurugba, is a staunch member of the APC North America branch.