Private sector investment is critical to the growth and sustainability of the agriculture sector, His Excellency, the Vice President of Sierra Leone, Dr Juldeh Jalloh, told the audience during his keynote speech at the launch on the 20th February 2020, of 15 new EU-funded contracts worth €19.3 million to Sierra Leone’s agricultural sector.
He went on to commend the EU for ensuring substantial private sector representation among the successful project partners and emphasised that food security was just one objective of the EU’s investment into our agricultural sector. Agriculture was going to become the engine of job creation in Sierra Leone and by maximising its export potential, it would add substantially to the country’s GDP, he said. The EU’s EU Ambassador – Tom Vens, EU Ambassador also highlighted the EU’s new private sector focus saying: “The EU is making a radical shift by bringing in the private sector to generate jobs and growth in the area of agriculture.”Dr Francis Kai-Kai, the Minister of Planning and Economic Development and the National Authorising Officer for Sierra Leone said: “At the end of the two to three year implementation period, I expect that our grant winners will have contributed to a sector that is more productive, more innovative, more inclusive and diverse, one that delivers on farmer incomes, that is meeting its export potential and that offers food security to our people.”The contracts have been awarded to a range of private sector agri-businesses and NGOs under the EU’s Boosting Agriculture and Food Security Programme (BAFS) and are targeted at creating jobs in the agricultural sector, increasing production, agricultural diversification, improving opportunities for women and young people, developing value chains and increasing the use of agri-tech.An exhibition of the winning projects highlighted the growing diversity and innovation in Sierra Leone’s agricultural sector. A project to improve palm oil processing was led by the Sierra Leonean firm FINIC which specialises in agri-processing machinery. Increasing honey yields through better bee husbandry and processing and packaging techniques was the focus of several of the awardees, as were industrial greenhouse schemes which would improve the quality and quantity of fruit and vegetables for both local and export markets. Other projects included land management, improved animal husbandry and one to bring value-added cocoa products including made-in-Sierra Leone chocolate to the domestic, European and North American markets .
Working closely with the EU Delegation, the National Authorising Office (NAO) ensured that the projects being funded under these contracts are directly linked to targets within Sierra Leone’s National Development Plan. The staff of the NAO will also collaborate with the EU Delegation to monitor the outputs and results of the grantees, and provide them with technical and administrative support. This will include operating a help desk to support their work; linking them with the West African Competitiveness Programme in Sierra Leone implemented by UNIDO, and working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry on ensuring the necessary permits for the importation of agricultural inputs from within the African Region.The role of the NAO is to work with the EU Delegation to manage the implementation of EU funds, oversee EU-funded projects, and ensure their alignment with Sierra Leone’s national development priorities. The NAO currently monitors a range of multi-million Euro projects which span infrastructure, governance and education as well as agriculture.