Friday, March 30, 2007

Buedu Hosts Mano River Agricultural Show and Trade Fair

Freetown, Monday 19th March 2007 - Since the declaration of Food Security for Sierra Leone in 2002, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in collaboration with farmers, donors and other stakeholders in the food and agriculture industry have been assiduously working to ensure that President Kabbah's dream of food security for Sierra Leoneans becomes a reality.

One of the areas in the country that have worked to hard to make their community food self-sufficient is the Kissi Bendu area in the Kailahun District. The people of Kissi Bendu were proud to inform President Kabbah that they have achieved 95% food self sufficiency.

As a manifestation of this fact, the people of Kissi Bendu community, in collaboration with the Makona River Forum for Peace and Food Security together with their neighbours in the sister countries of Guinea and Liberia organized a Mano River Agricultural Show and Trade Fair which was hosted in Buedu, Kissi Tongi Chiefdom Kailahun District on Saturday 17th March 2007.

The President, Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was in Buedu and formally opened the Agricultural show and Trade Fair.

Welcoming guests during the opening ceremony, Hon. Francis Tengbeh said that the objective of the Agricultural show was to demonstrate to President Kabbah that his vision of food security five years ago has been achieved by the Kissi Bendu people, adding that they were proud to say that they are not only feeding themselves but other people from different parts of the country who come to buy food stuff from their market.

The chairman of the Kailahun District Council, Mr. Kortu who spoke on behalf of the people of Kailahun District among other things said that the livelihood of the people of Kailahun is agriculture, but underscored the deplorable condition of the road which makes it difficult for the people to market their produce. He therefore appealed for the rehabilitation of feeder roads and the Pendembu-Koindu road, and an increase in the allocation of tractors to the district. While praising government for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of schools, hospitals and health centres in the district and the provision of medicines, he highlighted the problem of insufficient medical doctors in the district hospitals. He therefore also appealed for doctors to be posted to their hospitals.

On the reconstruction of the Kenema-Koindu Road for which donors have already pledged support, the people of Kissi Bendu appealed to President Kabbah for the construction of the road to start from Koindu as they have had two bitter experiences with the railway and the Vianini road in the colonial days, which they said all stopped at Pendembu although they were planned to have terminated at Koindu.

P.C. Mohamed Banya of Luawa Chiefdom Kailahun District who spoke on behalf of the Council of Paramount Chiefs informed the gathering that the success behind agriculture is the paramount chiefs, stating that he personally moved around the communities appealing to people to offer land free of cost to anybody who wants to farm. If this attitude is adopted in every chiefdom he said, Sierra Leone will achieve food security in no time.

Dr. Alieu Diallo, Secretary General of the Mano River Union who accompanied President Kabbah to the Agricultural Show and Trade Fair expressed his pleasure at the activities of the Makona River Forum for Peace and food Security, which he said has the same objectives and programmes as the Mano River Union (MRU). He said the MRU provides assistance to programmes based on peace and security initiatives, and youth empowerment is number one priority. Dr. Diallo also informed the people about the setting up of a Bank that will support young people with micro-credit, and training for empowerment.

The Minister of Works and Technical Maintenance, Dr J.C. Boima allayed the fears of the people by informing them that funding is already available for the rehabilitation of 250 miles of feeder roads and work will commence soon before the rains set in.

Agriculture and Food Security Minister, Dr. Sama Monde praised the people of Kailahun District for achieving the level of food security just within the second year of the food security declaration. He said that this is the only district where youths approached him to say that they have prepared 512 farms but requested only 30 bushels of seed rice assistance from his Ministry. In appreciation of their effort, Dr. Monde said they are directing donors like IFAD and others to support them.

A representative of the youth who spoke earlier on behalf of the youths thanked President Kabbah for the peace and security they are enjoying and expressed appreciation for the opportunity given to youth to dialogue with the elders at this kind of forum. He pointed out that the youth are very well prepared to work, but however noted that youth in the rural areas are left out of the youth empowerment scheme. He therefore appealed to His Excellency to ensure that the youth empowerment programme reach them as well.

In his address, President Kabbah expressed appreciation to the organizers of the programme as a means of demonstrating in concrete terms their contribution to the food security vision.

He particularly recognized the turnout and composure of the school children and advised the parents and the District Councils to continue giving the children the encouragement and provide the opportunity and environment for good learning. He also expressed his pleasure to the youth for their show of appreciation for a dialogue forum.

On the Yenga issue which was earlier highlighted by the Chiefdom Speaker, Brima Kendor, President Kabbah informed the people that he had had discussions with President Lansana Conte on four different occasions and assured them that the boundary issue will be settled before he leaves office. Other speakers at the ceremony included a representatives of the Kissi Bendu Women Farmers Association, GTZ and the Civil Society Alternative Process. The programme was chaired by the Resident Minster Eastern Region.