Minister warns cocoa farmers

Minister warns cocoa farmers

By Ahmed Sahid  Nasralla (De Monk)

Resident Minister. East, Andrew Fatorma

Participants and high table guests during the closing ceremony

Sierra Leone Resident Minister East, Andrew Fatorma, has urged local cocoa farmers to put more efforts and employ best practices in growing better cocoa so that they would earn more money and bring about desired change in their lives as well as to their communities and the nation in general, or risk facing the wrath of God.

 

Speaking at the closing ceremony of a 21-day Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop for community facilitators on Cocoa Integrated Crop and Pest Management (ICPM), and Farmers Field Schools (FFS) under the Cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Programme (CoRIP) organised by Solidaridad West Africa at Hotel Albertson in Kenema Town on 29th March, 2019, the Resident Minister warned the participants to go back to their communities and put into effective practice what they have learnt or risk the wrath of God’s sledgehammer.

“You should remember that nobody forced you to come and participate in this training; you opted to be part of it. After people have taken time to groom you to ensure that you transform your lives and this country, you will then go back and sit in your communities and forget about everything. If you do so, God will use His sledgehammer on you,” swore the Resident minister.

He added: “You have gone through 21 days of quality training, and to host you from different locations in the country in Kenema has required a huge amount of money. They accommodated you, provided food for you, and got an international consultant to train you has cost a lot. The only way you can pay back is to put the knowledge and skills you have gained from this training into practical use so as for you to change the story of the cocoa industry and bring about the needed change in your lives, your families, your communities and the country at large.”

The Resident Minister said his presence at the ceremony was to emphasize the premium His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio puts on agriculture as the engine for socio-economic growth. ‘’In the past, Sierra Leone had agriculturists who graduated with first and second degrees and even doctorates, but we have not got an agriculturist in this country who is practicing agriculture. We want to change that narrative.”

He encouraged the participants to go back and serve as ambassadors of the new cocoa industry in their communities.

“We are beginning to curse people who take up responsibilities but fail to discharge such responsibilities effectively, and who turn round to blame government when things don’t go right. When you talk about government, it is not about the president alone, or his Cabinet; you in your small corners are also charged with the responsibility to transform your country, but when you fail in that duty, you don’t condemn yourself, but other people,” the Resident Minister said. He added that people often ask for help, and when such help are given to them, they have nothing to show in return for what they have done for this country.

The Resident Minister said if the country failed to produce better cocoa, nobody should blame the Ministry of Agriculture or government.

“You should not blame the ministers, but yourself because you have been trained to produce better cocoa, and we are now expecting you to deliver,” he challenged the participants.

He urged Solidaridad and its partners to effectively follow-up and monitor outcomes.

“What has been happening in this country is that sometimes they train people, and because there are no proper follow-ups or monitoring systems, such projects die out. Perhaps in due course, we’ll begin to even ask people to sit exams for the degrees they claim to have, so that after every five year, you will come and defend your credentials. That is what is happening in other countries,” he said.

A total of 102 participants took part in the training: 61 farmers selected by partners, 10 Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) extension staffs, 20 Field Officers of partners and 11 National Youth service personnel.

The training programme involved cocoa agronomy, pest management, disease management, rehabilitation, how to set up FFS and other programs that will enable farmers grow sustainable cocoa.

According to the Consultant trainer, Sylvanus Agordorku, the farmers are expected to go to their communities to establish FFS in conjunction with their partners who they are working with. He further said that at these schools, they are supposed to train cocoa farmers in planting, replanting and diversification, as well as rehabilitation because the current programme is meant for rehabilitation and new planting in the cocoa farms. Eventually, the old plantations will be taken care of during the course of the FFS training.

Furthermore, Agordorku said the farmers are expected to plant food crops, as rainy season crops in the cocoa farms will be established so that they will have food security, food availability and food accessibility, and thereby help reduce hunger.

“The old practice where farmers go to the food banks to borrow will be minimized or eradicated entirely during the course of the programme,” noted Sylvanus.

In Sierra Leon,e the CoRIP project, which is funded by the Dutch Government, is implemented in three districts, namely Kenema, Kailahun and Kono- all in the Eastern region, where the land is fertile for cocoa farming. It seeks to support cocoa intensification and production improvements by facilitating improved farmers’ access to inputs and extension services and test and validate economically viable and operationally feasible service delivery models for production support services through the creation of Farmer Support Centers (FSCs).

As part of Solidaridad West Africa’s sustainability strategy, they work through local partners: F.T. Saad, Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Company, Randlyn Holdings and Trading Organic-SL Ltd. To date, a total of 765,920 improved cocoa varieties have been nursed by partners through Solidaridad’s support across the three operational districts. These seedlings are expected to be distributed and planted by 27,500 smallholders’ cocoa farmers in the three districts. The 21- day training is part of Solidaridad’s efforts to ensure that these seedlings when distributed to farmers are maintained using Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs).

“In due course, we expect the trainees to adopt the knowledge acquired in their farms, train other farmers (ToT) and demonstrate commitment to attend future trainings,” said John Maada Paul Sinah, Solidaridad’s Programme Manager for oil palm in Sierra Leone. “We will be conducting follow-up visits to all trainees and farms to verify whether the knowledge gained over these three weeks are reflected on the farmers and farms.”

Meanwhile, one of the participants, Ade Momoh, described the training as very timely and an eye-opener.

“All what I was doing before was actually following what I learnt from my parents who were also cocoa farmers. It has been very beneficial to me, but I was never exposed to new methods to improve on my cocoa farming business, as I was just using the old method I inherited from my father. Now I am happy to learn about new methods I need to apply in the field that will change  my cocoa production techniques for the better,” said the 44-year-old famer from Kailahun District, who claimed to have been a cocoa farmer since 2004.

He said he would return to his community full of new ideas and confidence, and will apply them in his cocoa farm.

Credit: Development and Economic Journalists Association-Sierra Leone (DEJA-SL).