Photo: Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Hon. Samking Koihinah Braima glancing at Solidaridad cocoa Facilitator's Guide ©Solidaridad Sierra Leone
The Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Samking Koihinah Braima, has commended Solidaridad West Africa for introducing innovative approaches in the agriculture sector in Sierra Leone - accounting for 50% of the country's GDP.
The Deputy Minister made these remarks when he visited the exhibition booth of Solidaridad at this year's World Food Day Celebrations themed "Our Action Our Future" held at Port Loko in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone.
"I've visited most of the other exhibition booths and observed that, older varieties of cash crops seedlings that will take more than five years to produce were exhibited. Our farmers cannot wait any longer for such varieties and its not a good incentive to attract agribusiness investment in the agriculture sector," emphasized the Hon. Deputy Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
"Thankfully, Solidaridad has been very instrumental in introducing improved planting materials which are fast-growing and high yielding to our farmers, and the Ministry is happy with you for that initiative." It is also refreshing to note that through the innovative idea of intercropping with food crops and vegetables, farmers will not have to wait for four years before benefiting from their labour. The Government, under the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry welcomes this initiative and is determined to work with Solidaridad and other institutions to roll it across the country.
He revealed that His Excellency the President, Rtd Brigadier Dr. Julius Maada Bio will soon engage his colleague presidents in Ghana and Cote D'Ivoire to support Sierra Leone with improved planting materials (cocoa,oil palm and cashew) in the short to medium term while the country takes bold steps to establish seed gardens to supply farmers in the long term.
Solidaridad is making the difference in the tree crops sub-sector due to its expertise in the West African sub-region spanning over 14 years working to ensure socially responsible and value-added sustainable production and consumption of cocoa, oil palm, cashew and coffee,
Solidaridad West Africa successfully implemented phase 1 of the Cocoa and Oil Palm intensification programmes in Ghana and Cote D'Ivoire between 2012 and 2017. These two initiatives tested and validated a solid business case for developing the West Africa cocoa and oil palm sub-sectors through support to smallholder farmers and medium-scale enterprises in partnership with the relevant private sector companies. The donor, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands based in Ghana extended phase 2 of this initiative to Sierra Leone and Liberia from November 2017 - December 2021.
In the last two years, Solidaridad Sierra Leone has raised and planted more than 600,000 hybrid cocoa seedlings and over 180,000 improved oil palm seedlings in more than 200 cocoa and oil palm growing communities in Kono, Kenema and Kailahun Districts.
As part of the World Food Day celebration, Solidaridad exhibited a model cocoa farm intercropped with annual crops like maize, banana, plantain, and cassava as shown in the picture below.
The rationale for this approach is to maximize farmers effort on the same piece of land, optimize crop yield, ensure food diversification and increase income in both the short and long term. The model farms demonstrated how the approach is used to train farmers on sustainable cocoa intensification methods which have the added advantage of protecting and tending the young cocoa seedlings in the early years of establishment, minimizing weed growth and thus saving money that would have been used to pay for expensive labour.
The intercropping model would also help to improve soil fertility through biomass decomposition and biological interactions within the soil mass and increase yields while providing the farmers with the needed foodstuffs and incomes within the shortest time. The intensification model also helps to protect and conserve forests by ensuring maximum use of land rather than the current shifting cultivation which is both labour intensive and unsustainable in the face of increasing population.
The Deputy Minister was conducted around the booth by the Programmes Technical Advisor for Solidaridad Sierra Leone, Andrew Kojo Morrison. Mr. Morrison stated that Mr. Morrison stated that "with our expertise around the globe and especially in West Africa, we are working with farmers to replace over-aged and unproductive tree stocks as well as poor and long duration planting materials with improved, fast-growing and high yielding hybrid/improved varieties in the cocoa and oil palm sectors".
The World Food Day celebration gives Solidaridad the opportunity to showcase its newly procured customized cinema van used for mass sensitization and community education on good agricultural practices and related activities. This multi-purpose information, education and publicity mobile vehicle will strengthen the ongoing Farmer Field School (FFS) education through strategic audio-visual presentations with the aim to establish Community Video Viewing Clubs (CVVC).
Through the CVVCs, Solidaridad has customized good agriculture and best management practices videos translated into specific local languages in communities where Solidaridad operates. These CVVCs would further strengthen the understanding of farmers in cocoa and oil palm production value chains.
Solidaridad Sierra Leone joined the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and a host of national and international organizations, to demonstrate and reaffirm our commitment to ending hunger and malnutrition in Sierra Leone.