The government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Finance yesterday signed a $28.5million financing agreement with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to help improve rice, cocoa and palm oil production under the Agriculture Value Chain Development Project (AVDP).
The largest share of the additional funds by IFAD will be devoted to rice production in the inland valley swamps, which is consistent with the priorities of government.
The project has three components namely; climate resilient and smart agricultural production, agricultural market development and project coordination and management.
According to the Deputy Finance Minister, Dr. Patricia Laverley, 73% of the funds-representing $21.5million will be a loan, while the remaining $7million will be giving as a grant.
She stated that agricultural development remains key to the country's economic development and rural poverty reduction, noting that there is considerable untapped potential for improving production and productivity of both staple and cash crops.
She said the Agriculture Value Chain Development project will help promote crop diversification to provide flexibility and choice to beneficiaries and support improved nutrition.
"We will work towards the implementation of this additional financing agreement to achieve its objectives. We will do our utmost to ensure that the resources provided for this project will be used for their intended purposes," she assured.
Dr. Laverley noted that the project will target an estimated 43,000 direct beneficiaries and their families, thereby reaching approximately 260,000 people.
She added that the impact IFAD contributions have had over the years in Sierra Leone has been tremendous.
In his statement, IFAD Director for West and Central Africa, Lisandro Martin said: "We are working towards continuing our support to the government to making agriculture at the center of growth and poverty reduction. Our contribution is meant to advance inclusion efforts. Sierra Leone has seen sustained growth over the years but there is still a lot more to be done, especially the inclusion of women the agricultural sector."
He said the support from IFAD will help fortified value chain and financial instruments for women and youths in particular so that everybody can benefit from the prowess of the country.
"We have a strong focus on results and if we see the funds disburse and reach the beneficiaries in a positive way, we can provide additional resources to continue helping the government until the end of 2020," he noted.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Samking Braima said: "The project speaks to our national agricultural transformation program which is the strategic document of the ministry. We are hopeful that by rolling out programmes in the coming months, IFAD activities will be visible across the country."