Concord Times (Freetown)

Sierra Leone: Timely Boost to Agriculture

Freetown — The World Bank on Wednesday approved support for two projects in the agriculture sector worth $42 million as grants, meant to boost agriculture production and the sales of agricultural produce in Sierra Leone and to contribute significantly to the delivery of government's Agenda for Change priorities in this sector, a release from the bank said.

The projects are the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAPP) for $22 million, including a Japanese grant of $10 million, and additional financing for the Rural Private Sector Development Project (RPSDP) worth $20 million.

The grant agreement for WAPP was signed on June 1, 2011 between the government of Sierra Leone and the World Bank. The WAPP is a regional project covering Sierra Leone, Togo, Benin, Niger, Liberia and The Gambia, with a total budget of $120 million (of which $22 million will be for Sierra Leone).

The funds are expected to generate social and economic benefits for an estimated 200,000 agricultural producers and other value chain actors in the country over five years and specifically targets increasing the production of rice and cassava.

The Rokupr Agricultural Research Center (RARC) of SLARI has been selected to be the Centre of Excellence for mangrove rice in the sub-region, and would get support for strengthening its research and extension services, the release said.

The benefit of a regional project will be in terms of research centres in different countries specialising in specific crops, and disseminating the new technologies in all project countries. Given the very low rice yield levels in Sierra Leone, the project is expected to help increase yields in a short period of time thereby increasing domestic rice production.

The World Bank said additional financing for the Rural Private Sector Development Project (RPSDP) is meant to help improve access to markets through rehabilitation and maintenance of feeder roads, supporting cocoa marketing and strengthening of farmer-based organisations. By the time the project ends in 2015 it is expected to have rehabilitated around 1,500km of feeder roads - over one-third of the feeder road length in the country. "This activity will create local jobs and help boost household income. The project will also help boost cocoa yields, and has already been supporting cocoa exports - between August and December 2010 the cooperatives supported by the project exported over 125 Mt of Grade one cocoa beans," said the release.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Vijay Pillai, World Bank country manager said "the World Bank and government of Japan are indeed pleased to provide this timely boost to the agriculture sector in Sierra Leone. Success in the sector is within reach, and is vital for reducing poverty and boosting household incomes.

"The world is witnessing another spike in food prices, so turning our attention to the agriculture sector is an urgent collective priority. We are pleased to partner with the government on this".

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