The GoSL has signalled that agriculture is now a priority sector for the economy. This is evidenced through the attention given to it in the second PRSP (PRSP II), where it is asserted that “economic development and poverty reduction in Sierra Leone will only be sustained with developments in the agricultural sector”.9 In addition the GoSL’s 2009 budget identifies a prime objective as: “to accelerate economic growth by scaling up investment in agriculture and infrastructure as well as improving the business climate.”10 Moreover, Le3.4 billion is allocated in the domestic capital budget to support various agricultural projects.11In addition, some development partners, notably the African Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the European Commission and the World Bank are providing a total of Le37.7 billion, to fund various agricultural projects in support of the GoSL’s priorities on agricultural development. The priority in agriculture is therefore increased productivity and competitiveness. The development of the NSADP is a contribution towards this prime objective.
General Agriculture Policies
According to the PRSP, support to agriculture has been focused on reducing poverty and food insecurity, which is in accordance with Millennium Development Goal 1. Policies have therefore concentrated on small-holder farmers, and less attention has been paid to medium and large scale farming.12 Extension services have therefore targeted improvements in agricultural production from small farms and have not supported the growth of agro-industry in the country. The Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board (though imperfectly operated) was intended to serve a variety of functions, including research and the provision of services which supported technological upgrading of export crops. However this institution was dismantled as a consequence of economic liberalisation and privatisation.
Research effort since then has been patchy and has not focused on the needs of the agro-processing firms, including adaptive research on enhancing variety and ensuring the availability of fruit, vegetables and other crops all year round. There are no obvious policies on technology dissemination and technological upgrading for improved agricultural productivity. Science and technology infrastructure targeted at the agricultural sector over the years has declined and is fragmented. Public funding for research institutes, universities and technology policy coordination bodies has traditionally been low or non-existent. It is worth noting that the GoSL will provide Le2.2 billion to the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI) in the present budget, however, it will take some time for this investment to begin to show results. The disconnection between public research and development institutes and productive sectors is a constraint on learning and technological adaptation at the enterprise level.
More research that meets the needs of the agro-processing sector needs to be conducted, including adaptive research on enhancing variety, and ensuring availability of fruits and vegetables all year round. The scope of the agriculture extension policy also needs to be broadened to benefit the agro-processing sector. There is a need for an inclusive policy action that caters to the needs of the majority of the rural agro-processing firms. Low value addition capacity in the agricultural sector emphasises the need for policy support institutions that can help ensure that urban populations get access to well processed, quality domestic rice, and that quality of export crops will be increased.
The Ministry of Agriculture’s stated vision is to make agriculture the engine of socio-economic growth and development in Sierra Leone. To do this the Ministry will focus on a two-pronged approach: on the one hand seeking to promote food security and poverty alleviation and on the other, private sector development and growth.13 To this end, the MAFFS has elaborated a number of key interlinking objectives and aspirations for this goal, including inter alia: enhancing increased agricultural productivity and production; promoting crop diversification; assisting small-farmers to get organized for market economy; reducing imports; and promoting sector infrastructural development such as roads, markets, and post-harvest facilities.
In seeking to increase agricultural productivity and diversification, MAFFS will assist in the widespread use and dissemination of agricultural machinery such as tractors, power tillers and harvesters; the establishment of supply chains for inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides and high yielding seed varieties such as NERICA; the increase of irrigation facilities to expand cropping cycles year round; the enhancement of agro processing marketing and distribution; and the encouragement of increased cultivation of food crops with farmer-based organizations of small-scale farmers and with medium to large scale farms.
Private sector participation in agriculture will be promoted by creating an enabling environment that is attractive for the private sector to invest in agriculture, including access to financial services, physical infrastructure such as roads and community markets, and post harvest storage facilities.
In 2004, the Ministry of Trade, in partnership with UNIDO developed a programme of support to SMEs in order to:
support the post-conflict national reconstruction based on bottom up SME development strategies for poverty reduction, particularly the increase in food supply
address the poor capacity of micro, small and medium scale enterprises in Sierra Leone to manufacture, supply and service appropriate equipment and machinery for the agricultural and agro-processing sectors, and to generate employment in the industrial sector
The programme developed growth and production centres around the country; encouraged skills development among micro and small businesses; and facilitated trade by linking production centres to strategic marketing and distribution depots, and to export markets abroad.14 Machinery and technology for use and adaptation in local food industry was designed; and food processing (fruit juices, marmalades, jams, industrial starch, etc) took place.15
In order to further address the issue of availability of equipment and technology for manufacturing and industry, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Government of Sierra Leone and the National Research Development Corporation of India that was designed to transfer technology, machinery and tools for use in: fruit processing, food products, agro processing, packaging materials, light engineering, cooling systems, agricultural implements, and utilities. It is unclear what the status of this project is as well as the status of the growth and production centres.