“Agriculture is the most important profession and business in the world,” said Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, AfDB, while addressing students at the Federal University of Agriculture in Abeokuta, Nigeria.
Dr Adesina, who spoke at the institution two years ago, maintained that “the size of food and agriculture in Africa will rise to $1 trillion by 2030. The population of Africa, now at 1.2 billion, will double to 2.5 billion by 2050. They all must eat. And only through food and agribusiness can this be achieved.”
It was, therefore, gratifying to see Agriculture as one of the BIG FIVE Priorities contained in the recently unveiled Sierra Leone People’s Party, SLPP Manifesto. While unveiling the People’s Manifesto titled: The New Direction: Consolidating the Gains and Accelerating Transformation, President Julius Maada Bio opined that the document is anchored on “Five Key Initiatives for building an inclusive and prosperous Sierra Leone for faster and lasting transformation.”
Continuing, he highlighted the priority areas as Feed Salone: an initiative to boost Agricultural productivity, to ensure food security and inclusive economic growth; Human Capital Development for Nurturing Skills for 21st-Century Industry; Youth Employment Scheme: A presidential initiative to create 500,000 jobs for the youths in five years; Revamping the Public Service Architecture Through Delivery, Efficiency and Professionalism; and Technology and Infrastructure Programmes to Serve as Pathways for Sustained Economic Growth.
The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) manifesto under the leadership of President Bio envisions a future where agriculture plays a pivotal role in driving economic growth, ensuring food security, and promoting sustainable development.
With a focus on modernising the agricultural sector, President Bio has outlined ambitious plans to transform Sierra Leone into an agricultural powerhouse. This manifesto highlights vital initiatives that aim to boost productivity, enhance value chains, empower farmers, and harness the potential of agriculture to uplift communities across the nation.
President Julius Bio’s unwavering commitment to agricultural transformation in Sierra Leone exemplifies his profound understanding of the sector’s potential to drive economic development and improve livelihoods.
Through targeted policies, strategic investments, and fruitful partnerships, he is set to unlock the country’s Agricultural revolution and put the country on the path of sustainable growth.
A cursory look at the 120-page document shows a thought-out plan to sustain the administration’s gains and strategies to leapfrog development in strategic areas for economic growth and development.
By putting Agriculture top on the Agenda, President Bio is set to launch Sierra Leone into one of the continent’s leading lights in food sufficiency and Agricultural revolution. It is also preparing the country to benefit from the AfDB’s $25 billion Feed Africa project, a ten-year plan to transform Agriculture in the continent.
With the SLPP’s Manifesto focus on Agriculture, here are a few prospects for the country:
Employment: A Food & Agriculture Organization report states that Agriculture employs around 60 per cent of the population and accounts for 49 per cent of the country’s GDP, making the sector the largest employer in Sierra Leone.
With the SLPP manifesto’s focus on Agriculture, this figure will undoubtedly receive a considerable boost and provide platforms for increased employment. It will also provide livelihoods for a significant portion of the population, especially in rural areas. It creates job opportunities and reduces unemployment rates, reducing poverty and improving living standards.
Food Security: Agriculture is essential for ensuring food security within the country. By developing a robust agricultural sector, Sierra Leone can enhance its ability to produce an adequate and diverse range of food products to meet the nutritional needs of its population.
Income Generation: Agriculture serves as a source of income for many individuals and households in Sierra Leone. By increasing agricultural productivity and promoting value addition along the agricultural value chain, farmers and agribusinesses can generate higher incomes, leading to economic growth and poverty reduction.
Export Potential: Sierra Leone has significant potential to export agricultural products, such as rice, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, and various fruits and vegetables. Developing the agricultural sector can enhance export earnings, boost foreign exchange reserves, and contribute to overall economic development.
Rural Development: As the majority of Sierra Leone’s population resides in rural areas, agricultural development can foster rural development and reduce urban-rural disparities. Improved access to agricultural inputs, infrastructure, and market opportunities can uplift rural communities, enhance livelihoods, and alleviate poverty.
Economic Diversification: Agriculture is a foundation for economic diversification in Sierra Leone. By investing in agribusinesses, processing industries, and agricultural research and development, the country can reduce its reliance on traditional sectors and create a more resilient and sustainable economy.
Environmental Sustainability: When practised sustainably, agriculture can help protect the environment and natural resources. Promoting sustainable agricultural practices, such as agroforestry, organic farming, and water conservation, can contribute to soil fertility, biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation.
Hassan Bangura, an agricultural expert in Sierra Leone, believes the plan is long overdue. In his words, “I think it is better late than never. The government should have prioritized Agriculture in 2018, but I guess Free & Quality Education was equally a priority, which I understand. This is a welcome development.”
President Bio’s SLPP manifesto underscores the government’s commitment to transforming Sierra Leone’s agricultural sector into a vibrant, modern, and sustainable industry. By enhancing productivity, strengthening value chains, empowering farmers, promoting agro-processing, and adopting sustainable practices, the government aims to create a thriving agricultural sector that contributes significantly to national development, poverty reduction, and food security.
Through these ambitious plans, President Bio envisions a future where agriculture drives Sierra Leone’s socioeconomic transformation.