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A five day intensive case studies tour of Koinadugu, Kono, Kailahun and Kenema districts has ended between a USAID supported program for Sierra Leone (PAGE) and World Food Program (WFP). The tour was a joint venture between Promoting Agriculture Governance and the Environment (PAGE) and other partners like CARE, Concern worldwide, GTZ. Key on the objectives of the case studies was identify challenges in crop production and marketing and livelihood improvement, with closer examination of variance between women and men.
Also, the initiative was designed to find out why some farmers improve agriculture production and income more than the throughout the course of Purchase for Progress implementation. Purchase for Progress is a World Food Program initiative jointly implemented with PAGE through its value chain addition with smallholder farmers and farmer’s organizations and market opportunities creation. At a meeting in Nyfrandor, Sengbeh chiefdom Koinadugu district, smallholder farmer, Jeneba Kabba of Mafu Tamba Farmers Association mentioned that the program has brought new knowledge and increased farming income. “I didn’t believe that this initiative would help in the beginning” said Jeneba “now I can pay my children’s school and medical bills and do some petty trading” she added.
Holding discussions with the Koinadugu Vegetable Women Farmers Cooperative, chairperson Haja Sundu Marah memntiond that their existence could be traced as far back as 1985 when were referred to as Kabala Women’s Project with support from Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). “We were of the strongest conviction that women can better manage resources for development” said Haja Sundu Marah. Over the years she noted, there has been a dramatic increase in rice cultivation. This, she pointed out had been as a result of the access to markets to trade cash crops. As part of the Cooperative future plans, young women within the ages of 18-25 are been encouraged to join the cooperative. To date the Cooperative holds up-to 724 members from 30 feeder groups across the Koinadugu district. Despite support received from FAO, Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) Rural and Private Sector Development Project, vice chairlady Bomba Koroma said the PAGE program has brought increased knowledge through it value chain approach in agriculture. This has helped considerably to meet market demands. “We can now compete in the markets with other producers and traders” said Kennedy Conteh secretary general “Last season we sold up to 601 locally produced rice that meets the WFP standards” said Mrs Koroma. From the P4P income we have been able to construct a store and that proceeds from membership contribution and bank savings they recently bought a milling machine. On World Food Day last year the Cooperative won a power tiller from FAO which they now use to support feeder group members.
In Kono, the team was greeted by number 9 Farmers Limited Company. Number 9 is a prominent base where Number-9 Diamond Mining plant was based. Having been disappointed with diamond mining, young people have summed up to engage in agriculture. “we have now come to realize that diamond mining is an unpredictable business, but agriculture is a permanent business, because you reap what you sow” Sahr Lamin, Secretary General. The company is engaged in both upland and swamp farming with inter cropping of pigeon peas, sorghum, broad beans, cassava etc. A total of 405 clean rice of 50kg was sold to WFP for its school feeding program. “Not only for the first time we were able to sell that amount of rice, but also it was produced locally and meets international standards, which we think is a success for us” Lamin added.
In Kailahun, Puje West chiefdom, a local farmer Frank Kposowa a father of 5 owns a 6 acre of land and plants rice, cassava, broad beans, maize and does some vegetable production. Incomes from vegetable are used by my wife for domestic affairs like cooking, medical and other family issues” Kposowa said. For last farming season the Kailahun District Council loan local variety rice seeds to Kposowa a member of an umbrella organisation Moamale Farmers Marketing Association on interest. For any five bushels each feeder group or farmer should return 7 bushels. “Because last year’s season was good I didn’t go for other seeds for this planning season. The rains came at the right time” Kposowa also mentioned that income generated from last year’s sales he used to meet school fees and medical expectations for both his elder brother and four school goers. “There are considerable benefits if becoming a member of a farming organization, you increase value and have markets to sell produce”. However, Frank noted to produce more he uses 70% hired labor and 30% family input.
Kona Pedibu Limited Liability Company, an umbrella group based in Largo village, Kenema district, owns a membership of 834 farmers. Individual cultivation range from 2 to 8 acre of land, with three groups of women solely. Before P4P there were 25 feeder groups but had now grown up to 35 groups. 450 of its membership are males and 384 are women. In two trenches the company sold 524 clean rice of 50kg to WFP under the P4P project with a tune of Le 55,000,000. “Had it not been for PAGE program it would have been difficult for us to reach this end” said Kenya Boima, Chairlady. “The value addition they brought through trainings like, post-harvest management, financial record keeping, leadership and governance principles, business enterprise development etc. helped us meet expectations” Their motto “ agriculture as a business” she mentioned was the theme that preach to reach out many agriculture audiences in the Kenema district. Asked what are the benefits of an association, Aruna Kamara said “ when together the work becomes easier and lighter and there are tendencies to learn from others”
By Fadda Bakish, Freetown
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