In May this year, the European Union approved for the utilization of over 129,000 Euro to SLARI through the National Authorising Office (NAO) to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 thereby targeting 1000 vulnerable farmers across seven selected districts in the country.Farmers in Bai-Largo village, Kori chiefdom in the Moyamba District, southern Sierra Leone planted 300Kg(2-Hectares) of an early maturing improved groundnut variety with support from the European Union have experienced an increased in yield from its first set of groundnut harvesting.

Even though the Moyamba district registered low Corona infection cases, however, the negative impacts of the virus have affected the access to high-improved planting materials for farming. The intervention of the EU-Funded COVID-19 Package has actually cushion some of the challenges faced by these farmers.

Mr. Michael Benya -Senior Farm Manager-Njala Agricultural Research Centre, SLARI supervising this project in Moyamba District says the emergency intervention package came in at the right time when COVID-19 has ravaged the community and their farming activities due to the restricted movement and inter district lockdowns. He confirmed the food production model implemented was a very nice one as it was able to incorporate the different classes of food nutrients from the 6-different crops (groundnuts, yellow flesh cassava, orange flesh sweet potato, rice, maize, and cowpea) that were distributed to 10000 farmers across seven districts in Sierra Leone.

One of the beneficiaries Mrs. Jeneba Pessima expressed delight and gratitude to the European Union (EU), the National Authorising Office (NAO), Boosting Agriculture for Food Security (BAFS) and Ministry of Agriculture (MAF) through Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI) during an interview with a reporter from 98.1 where she revealed that the project has not only provided nutritional secured food crops to them but has also enhanced their source of income by providing them with improved planting materials. She also informed the reporter that they are expecting up to 30-bags of improved harvested groundnuts that they will use to cook and also sell some of it to settle their financial commitments. She said the price/kg of improved groundnuts in the market is very good and they hope to get some substantial increase in income from the groundnuts sales. Money from these sales will be used to buy school items for their children to start the new academic year. “With this increase in productivity and yield we have seen, we are more determine now to expand on our output in the next cropping season” Jeneba ended.

Another beneficiary Mr. Francis Pessima also attributed the increasing yield and harvest to the new improved management practices training given to them by SLARI’s research scientists and team. He said from the beginning of the cropping season there was constant training and capacity building engagement between them and the implementing team who has also provided them with chemical fertilizers and other farming inputs.

The EU funded Project Coordinator and Plant Breeder Research Scientist at SLARI Dr. Isata Kamanda expressed her heartfelt appreciation to the farmers for making this proposed concept a success. She emphasized the importance of the first set of harvesting, as all of the harvested produce will be distributed to the EU-Funded beneficiaries.

She and her team from SLARI approached Bai-largo village to visit the first set of farmers and informed them about the EU funded project. She further confirmed that these farmers were hardworking and has shown much commitment especially the women who mostly bear the family burden to provide food for the family. Dr. Kamanda said the yield that she has seen in this EU funded COVID-19 emergency response farm is really outstanding. She said the result from the harvest has shown that with improved varieties, farms will have advanced and plenty yield more than the normal local farms. She went further to say the pumper harvest is a clear demonstration that these improved varieties will improve the lives of the farmers, enhanced their income and provide farmers access to improved materials for the next planting season. She continued that right across the seven selected districts for this EU funded COVID-19 emergency response farms projects, farmers have started harvesting their groundnut crops and have expressed satisfaction over high yields as the 150 selected farmers were fully supported.

SLARI is also implementing a two million Euro grant awarded by the European Union in 2018 with a core mandate to enhance the tree crops sector (cacao, coffee and cashew), fruit trees and agro-forestry, diversifying vegetable and livestock, develop agricultural technologies in tree crops, horticultural crops and livestock under the boosting agriculture and food security (BAFS) project in Sierra Leone.

More information about the EU’s Support to SLARI can be found on the SLARI website: www.slari.org.sl/

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