The reasons why Sierra Leone agriculture fails

10 November 2007 at 23:12 | 1103 views

By Sorie Jawara, Washington DC, USA.

My intention in this article is to discuss the problems associated with food production in Sierra Leone.

Unless immediate serious actions are implemented the production of food for consumption and export will be stagnant in that country for a long time and money will be wasted on a fruitless endeavors.

Let me start with production of rice, vegetables, fruits and meat, which are essentials and they are in great demand throughout the country. The only honest explanation any honest person can give for failure in agriculture is either previous governments had fools and crooks placed in the department of agriculture or it was a malicious intention to create a ministry of waste and thievery.

Should anyone be offended by this statement I respectfully challenge that person but if this article points out the facts, I hereby ask many to convey my humble message to this government, the simple message is common sense must be applied to solve our food production problems; thievery, waste and greed must be eradicated.

Farmers should be encouraged and they should not be exploited. I am sure many city dwellers are not familiar with the hard sufferings of farmers and their families, therefore they complain about high prices of rice, palm oil, meat, cassava, yams etc. Inept governments turn the fire pipes on farmers, the decent people who work hard for good harvest so they will survive and take care of their children. Farming should bring decent incomes to the farmers, those who think farmers should be used as tools and slaves to feed the many thieves, crooks and so called office workers do not have humanity in them.

Let it be understood that in 1969, Sierra Leone was rated the first country to produce the highest quality rise in West Africa. This rice was called fosa; it was the medium grain type with one stalk-yielding forty to fifty healthy full grains. Another high quality fast growing type was the bondo yahna, locally known as the farmer’s friend. A third class was the hefty weather bearer grown mostly in swampy areas. Sierra Leone was also the first country in West Africa to produce fresh milk from healthy cows. These achievements were made at the experimental station in Musaia in Koinadugu District.

This station was part of Njala University and the goal was to make Kionadugu District the breadbasket for Sierra Leone and the then starving neighboring countries such as Guinea and Liberia. Included in this programs were citrus fruit production and extensive growing of palm and coconut. Inland fish breeding was initiated, let it be note that all experiments were successful and results were documented and announced to the public.

Mr. Alpha Daramy was the first individual to experiment the production of onions. This was done in the little garden in the state house compound; the super grades were the wala wala, yellow girl and the giant crunchy red onion used for hamburger delight. The result was excellent and it gave zeal to farmers with the hope that support and promotions will come from government but their dreams were empty dreams to be carried by the wind.

It must be understood that the A.P. C. government with Siaka Stevens as leader tried very hard to promote combined agriculture but it is sad because it failed because of the major reasons listed below.

1. Poor management, merciless stealing and poor planning by senior officers. The beneficiaries were the captain thieves, not government and the people.

2. Funds for development and expansion quickly exited through the back doors.

3. Bribery and massive exploitation of farmers killed the hopes of enthusiastic farmers.

4. Extremely dangerous roads leading to stations disabled the tractors.

5. Inadequate maintenance and abuse of machines, stealing of parts and fuel created shortage of machines so many farmers became stranded.

6. Zealous farmers who are not supporters of a ruling party got no attention and promotion.

Some honest questions are what happened to the 650 animals (cows, bulls, sheep and pigs) and what happened to the funds collected from farmers? Why no one heard the bitter cries and complains of farmers. Why money was wasted on machines and why this place was abandoned?

My honest suggestion is this government must decide what to do about agriculture, abandon it and depend on imports or take general agriculture seriously and plan it properly so that money will not be wasted and spent to feed thieves. Sierra Leone has no good reason for starving and going hungry. We have suitable climate and very fertile land and it cost less to produce more. Our rivers and streams provide abundant water supply for irrigation, the cool climate in many areas encourage the growing of pepper, potatoes, yams and many crops during part of the dry season. Nature is in our favor thus no one will justify failures except for reasons resulting from thievery, poor planning, mismanagement and rustic exploitation of farmers so as to discourage them.

I hope readers will make contributions to this article and press on this young government to push hard and rectify past mistakes.