Saturday, September 19, 2020 1:47 pm
The agricultural sector is one of the key components of the palliative measures in the government’s response strategies during the covid pandemic. Dr. Dennis K .Vandi is the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. An amiable and seasoned civil servant, he spoke to ABUBAKAR HASHIM on developments at his ministry and the strategies in place to ensure food security during and post COVID-19
The Ministry has developed a Local Food Production Response Plan in pursuit of the responsibilities conferred on The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, by Government’s crafting a Quick Action Emergency Response Programme (QAERP). The Plan focuses on large scale mechanical cultivation of rice and other food crops to boost local production and reduce human contact, as well as promoting livestock production. Specifically, the Ministry aims to produce 25,000 metric tons (paddy)of rice through these strategies:
Furthermore, the ministry aims to diversify production by:
Also, the ministry will collaborate with ministry of trade for food supply and commodity price monitoring in 80 main markets from May – December 2020.
To achieve the above stated targets, the ministry organized a meeting of multi-lateral agencies and other partners, firstly, to notify them about the state of play of the agricultural calendar, communicate the need for them (the partners) to restructure their support and encouraging them to mobilize support for the local food production interventions;
The ministry, in collaboration with the Vietnamese team, will multiply 45 metric ton of foundation seeds, producing 2,250 metric ton of certified seeds, ensuring availability of high-quality seeds for 2021 planting season;
The Ministry has identified and validated lowland farm sites for cultivation. It has also engaged tractor owners and assessed their capacity as service providers to support farmers for mechanical rice cultivation. Service providers have been contracted and most have commenced land preparation.
EU SUPPORT TO MAF COVID-19 EMERGENCY RESPONSE FOOD SECURITY PROGRAM
This activity focuses mainly on land preparedness for rice production to improve food security in the event that the COVID-19 outbreak hinders importation of rice (our staple food in Sierra Leone). Also, the MAF has a vision to decrease importation of rice and rely mostly on local production and this is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of that.
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) poses a significant threat to food security in Sierra Leone. In the short term, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the farming calendar has been disrupted, the food chain has been disrupted, this will cause interruptions in the food supply, both from international markets and domestic supplies and could lead to scarcity and increases in food prices.
The fear of infection and the continuous lock-down has limited the supply of gang labour which is a critical component in farming.
The immediate impact of all of this will be hardest on the most vulnerable farming households. However, the eventual slowdown in economic activity would lead to job (including farm labour) insecurity and impact households that are normally not vulnerable.
To curtail food insecurity and poverty, BAFS/EU is supporting MAF with hiring tractors to enhance mechanized farming through ploughing, harrowing and seed harrowing of 500 hectares of rice farms. The farming model is pure stand, using bolilands (both upper and lower) ecosystem and mechanized farming system.
Three Agricultural companies were hire to do the work;
– Jamjay Agricultural Company – 250ha in Tonkolili District
– Agro Health Africa – 140ha in Port Loko District
– Kalomp Agricultural Business Center – 50ha Port Loko District
– Jamjay Agricultural Company – 60ha Port Loko District
The BAFS Project designed and printed COVID-19 sensitisation materials with key prevention messages targeted at famers and farming households. Also, the project distributed assorted COVID-19 prevention items for farmers and farming households