The drive to make the country food self-sufficient is being accelerated daily. The farmers and farming communities in the north, north-east and west of the country are the prime target of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) since they have the fertile land and manpower to boost rice production. “We encourage the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to be resolute on timely supply of seeds and fertilizer and design a platform where all levels of farmers can access loan” stated Madam Yabom Thaslim Sesay, in her welcome remark of the Minister of MAF, Dennis K. Vandi and his entourage to her district. She made this statement during the one –day familiarization and field assessment ministerial visit on Monday 9th March, 2020 at the Tonkolili District Council Headquarters in Magburaka. She added that “the council has been yearning for such dialogue in order to elucidate common challenges and suggest possible solutions since the Council directly deals with farmers”. Meanwhile, expressing her concern over the trading dynamics relating to agricultural produce, Yabom Thaslim Sesay said, farmers are unhappy with the pricing system and poor consumption rate. “The farmers prefer to sell in neighboring countries since they are well paid” she furthered. Representing the interest of the youth in the district, Denis Jusu, spoke on youth’s inclusion into farming. He expressed delight over their recognition as key players in food production and productivity. “We are ready to work tirelessly to increase rice production. We want the Minister to incorporate capacity building since modern Agriculture is digital” he advised. Jusu went on to say that 70% of the youths in Tonkolili District are highly involved in the production of “Port Loko 5-5” commonly known as “Jamba” because of its profitability. In order to change their minds from such production, he called on the Minister to introduce youth farms in the district. In his response, Minister Dennis K. Vandi said that to establish youth farms in all districts in collaboration with the Minister of Youth is part of his ministry’s agenda. He therefore, encouraged all the Paramount Chiefs to bring the youths in their chiefdoms onboard to intensify rice production. “The presence of the Minister has showed us that he is ready to motivate women in Agriculture. Most of the women in rural areas are farmers but because of portfolio support, they still remain poor” indicated the chairlady of Magburaka Women Farmers Association, Fulamusu Taqi. She admonished the Ministry, however, to pay total attention on input supply since the real farmers do not benefit from such facility. The Minister of MAF is embarking on a robust campaign to the rice producing districts to woo the support of Paramount Chiefs, MAF staffs, Farmers groups and other stakeholders to discuss his vision of rice self-sufficiency as it relates to the government’s agenda of “2020 – the year of delivery”. He has visited Kambia, Port Loko, Kabala, Falaba, Bombali and now Tonkolili with a very positive response from the people. If the pledges made by the people and MAF to boost rice production, the country might be well on its way to not only become self-sufficient in rice but also able to export it. Meanwhile, the Tonkolili District visit ended with singing a motivational song by the Tonkolili farmers.
By David Thoronka