Thursday, August 09, 2007

The World Bank and the Government of Sierra Leone sign a grant agreement on Boosting Agricultural Exports, Farm Revenues and Rural Incomes

The Acting Country Manager of the World Bank, Christopher Juan Costain, and his counterpart in Government, the Minister of Finance, John Benjamin, have today signed an agreement which puts into operation the Rural Private Sector Development project approved earlier on May 17 2007 by the World Bank Board in support of pro-poor economic growth for food security and job creation in Sierra Leone.

The US$30 million International Development Association (IDA) grant will, over the next five-year, help to improve efficiencies along the value chain of agricultural commodities yielding higher benefits to the products. The outcome of the project will be measured by farm level value addition and quality premiums in agricultural export crops.

The project will be implemented in the following four components:

Component A: Domestic Marketing Improvement (US$ 11.37 million). This component aims at improving domestic distribution channels for agricultural products to improve the ability of farmers and traders to market their goods in Freetown and other large domestic markets. Positive and visible developments in improving domestic marketing are expected to provide major incentives to producers for increased production. It will also assist consumers with the availability of commodities at competitive prices.

Component B: Agricultural Export Promotion (US$6.12 million). This component will provide the necessary tools and services to promote agricultural exports of commodities such as cocoa, coffee, cashew, oil palm, cassava and ginger. The component will support an export promotion initiative for these commodities identified as promising for export. Target beneficiaries include agricultural producers, agricultural exporters and other private enterprises in the value chain.

Component C: Support to Farmer- Based Organizations and Technology Improvement (US$7.03 million) aims at increasing farmers’ access to improved agricultural technology and practices to support quality improvement of commodities supported under Components A. and B, and strategic studies to identify support for additional commodities and markets. It will target rural producers and will support the following activities: (i) assistance in the strengthening of legally registered farmers’ organizations and their unions, agribusinesses, marketing entities, and other rural businesses through capacity building, policy regulations and market information; (ii) demonstration and introduction of improved technologies e.g., improved crop varieties, processing technologies (such as rice hullers), irrigation techniques for off-season production, crop diversification, etc; (iii) studies in strategic areas (rehabilitation of agricultural research, export promotion, etc.) to initiate future programs.

Component D: Policy Regulations, Project Management, Monitoring and Evaluation (US$5.47 million) will finance the development of key policy regulations, the project management function, and monitoring and evaluation. The project will be advised by an inter-ministerial steering committee co-chaired by the Ministry of Agriculture and food security and the Ministry of Trade and Industry. The project will be coordinated by a coordination unit (PCU).

While food production in Sierra Leone has improved over the years since the end of the war in 2002, it is still below the country’s potential. This is mainly due to the low on-farm productivity (yields average around 1.0 ton/ha for rice and maize, and less than 5.0 tons for cassava) and post harvest losses (40 percent). Addressing seasonal food security and improving agricultural competitiveness and rural incomes, access to improved technologies for production and processing, and access to markets is critical.

Improved planting material and animal breeds, improved crop, livestock and aquaculture/ fisheries practices and agricultural equipment to relieve labor bottlenecks, as well as improved processing of agricultural production are needed. To address the concerns of ensuring food security and creating jobs, agro-processing and marketing must be supported to a) make efficient use of increased production and b) diversify and increase rural incomes.

The project will support initiatives to improve quality produce for domestic/ export markets; assist in strengthening marketing organizations at the producer level as well as private trade engaged in domestic marketing and export; and support value addition and provide limited support for filling critical gaps in infrastructure along the value chain in conjunction with initiatives supported by Government and other donors.

The World Bank and the Government of Sierra Leone sign a grant agreement on Boosting Agricultural Exports, Farm Revenues and Rural Incomes in Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone News