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President Koroma commissions ABCs in Tonkolili

President Koroma commissions ABCs in Tonkolili

Agriculture has been identified by government as a panacea for food self-sufficiency as well as empowering farmers to farm for business. To realize this dream, President Ernest Bai Koroma has commissioned 14 newly constructed and well-equipped Agricultural Business Centres (ABCs) in Tonkolili District by symbolically cutting the tape to the ABC at Rowala two miles off Magburaka town.

The President also handed over Agricultural Development Assets (ADAs) worth over ten billion Leones to the Tonkolili District Council Chairman, Augustine Kargbo at the Magburaka Town Field, Magbesseh Street, Magburaka.

President Ernest Bai Koroma described the handing over of Agricultural Development Assets (ADAs) to farmers as a milestone aimed at empowering farmers to farm for business and enhancing the country’s food security drive. He pointed out that when he assumed office in September 2007, he identified agriculture as the way forward for sustainable development and food self-sufficiency as encapsulated in the “Agenda for Change”. The President said his government further adopted the recommendations of the African Union to champion agriculture by increasing government budgetary allocations from one percent in 2007 to ten percent by 2010. This effort, he said, enabled them to sign the CAADP pact that had strengthened government’s support to farmers and improve on their farming activities.

President Koroma emphasized that development is not concentrated in one part of the country but spread out across every region, district and town, while adding that the Agenda for Change had brought lots of changes in the five key areas of agriculture, energy, health care, road and infrastructural development and education, and also in creating an investor friendly environment.

He explained that the agricultural sector has been prioritized not just because most of the country’s population is engaged in farming, which held huge potentials for the development and transformation of Sierra Leone’s economy, but would also provide employment for Sierra Leoneans and more importantly change the lives of farmers in the country.

According to President Ernest Bai Koroma, the Smallholders Commercialization Programme (SCP) is intended to discourage dependence on subsistence farming by empowering famers to farm for business. He noted that this would help farmers realize more benefits from their farming activities and proceeds than in the past.

The President disclosed that one hundred and ninety three ABC’s had been constructed in every region, district and chiefdom, and feeder roads had also been constructed to make these ABCs easily accessible. He reiterated his government’s commitment to construct more ABCs all across the country to further strengthen the objective of commercializing agriculture in Sierra Leone.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS), Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay said the ADAs were worth over ten billion Leones. He revealed that the symbolic handing over ceremony was aimed at re-enforcing government’s determination to target the poor rural farmers in transforming Sierra Leone’s agricultural sector from subsistence to commercial activity.

He noted that the assets included power tillers, rice mills, rice haulers, threshers, de-stoners, harvesters, planters, hire purchase tractors, agro chemicals, seedlings and infrastructure like the Agricultural Business Centres, generators, solar panels and Information Technology equipment. Dr. Sam Sesay explained that the generators/solar panels and IT equipment were being provided to make the ABC’s not only business centres, but also a social cohesion point where farmers could interact and learn new farming techniques through extension messages.

The Minister accentuated the prioritization of the sector would guarantee the creation of more jobs. He revealed that Chinese Company was already on standby to invest heavily in Tonkolili, which would also create employment for over thirty thousand youths in the district. The company, he noted, would start its operations with thirty thousand hectares of rubber plantations and ten thousand hectares for rice cultivation and production. He expressed gratitude to the council for their support towards the Ministry’s efforts and to the President for his encouragement and support in ensuring that the projects are implemented.

Resident Minister North, Alie Kamara, noted that agriculture was gaining grounds in the Northern Province and in the country’s development as a whole. He lauded the tireless efforts of President Koroma for encouraging farmers by providing them with agricultural tools to enhance their productivity. He assured the President that farmers in Tonkolili District would ensure that his dream for the agricultural sector was realized, while adding that the District has the largest amount of bole lands in the country

The Tonkolili District Council Chairman, Augustine Kargbo expressed gratitude for the ABCs that have been constructed in the district and for the efforts of NACSA in rehabilitating and constructing the feeder roads leading to the ABCs. This, he said, would enable farmers to transport their produce to the mainland for marketing purposes and appealed for the construction of the remaining feeder roads.

The Tonkolili District Chairman informed President Koroma that the people of Magburaka were very appreciative of the rehabilitation of the township roads which had given a facelift to the town. He told the gathering about the President’s plan to provide electricity and clean pipe-borne water for the people of Magburaka in the coming weeks for which he assured the President of their payback support come the November elections, pledging that there would be no run-off.

Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Dr Minkailu Bah who represented his colleague Ministers from Tonkolili said their presence at the ceremony was in support of the President’s efforts and the district branch of the Ministry of Agriculture which had created so much awareness among farmers. He called on the farmers and the communities to make good use of the facilities in order to enhance their status and that of the country by escalating export opportunities.

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Ambassador Alhaji Dauda Kamara, commended the chiefs from the eleven chiefdoms for their show of interest and concern for the development of the country and the district as a whole. He stated that the SCP is an initiative that was being monitored by his Ministry, saying that the construction of the ABCs was to enhance agriculture in Sierra Leone, which was being replicated all over the country.

Ambassador Dauda Kamara urged the Tonkolili District Council to monitor the assets as they were meant to increase agricultural productivity and the status of the various communities, adding that it was also their responsibility to ensure that the facilities were used for the intended purposes.

Representing the farmers, Coordinator for the Tonkolili District National Federation of Farmers, John Fullah, acknowledged government’s efforts in addressing the problems of the farmers especially in trying to empower them. John Fullah informed the President that through the relentless efforts of the District Directorate, farmers had realized various supports including the establishment of fourteen ABCs, hire purchase of agricultural equipment, agricultural input support on seeds, drying floors and milling facilities.

He appealed to the President to continue to strengthen farmers in the district, and therefore called on farmers to support the President because he was the first to interact so closely with farmers in Sierra Leone.

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