Stakeholders Discuss National Irrigation Master Plan

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The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and other stakeholders at the ministry’s conference room, Youyi Building in Freetown, ended a day’s workshop on the formulation of the National Irrigation Master Plan for Sierra Leone.

The 65 participants were drawn from academia, the private sector, research institutions, government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), NGOs, Farmer-Based Organizations, dealers in agricultural machinery and spare parts and agro-processors.

Among others, the objectives of the project are to look at the past, present and future of irrigation in Sierra Leone, present and discuss the plan of work with key stakeholders and expected outcome of the project for better understanding. 

Officially declaring the workshop open, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Theresa Dick, enlightened that Sierra Leone has the resources to attain food security and underscored the need for research and innovation that are vital for food security reiterating that the ministry is key to achieving food security through mechanization and irrigation.

She also revealed that this is the year of accelerated delivery and commended FAO for its immense support to the ministry pointing out that the National Irrigation Master Plan is the first in the country.

The FAO Focal Point for the project, Mr. Ibrahim Bangura underscored that FAO is committed to support the Government of Sierra Leone to achieve food sufficiency, as it is one of the flagship projects of government, recalled that the Ministry of Agriculture initiated the idea and observed that the participants were selected based on their expertize to formulate a sound Irrigation Master Plan for the country.

Mr. Bangura continued that Sierra Leone has a lot of surface water but that storing it is the major challenge, informed that a National Consultant would help in the preparation of the masterplan reiterating that irrigation is pivotal for food security disclosing that FAO is also supporting government to formulate the Mechanization Policy for the country and appealed to stakeholders to also discuss and include aquiculture and water resources that are vital to the sector.

He further stated that they would also visit stakeholders in the regions and assured that the project would be implemented as planned although they are behind scheduled.

In his PowerPoint presentation on the National Context of Agricultural Irrigation; Past, Present and Future, the National Project Coordinator in the Ministry, Joseph Ganda revealed that although 80% of the country’s land is arable, 70% of farmers in Sierra Leone are smallholder farmers, that the country imports 40% of its rice needs worth $200 million and produces 60%.

He continued that agriculture accounts for 93% of water use in the country in addition to the fact that the country’s land is ideal for agriculture and reiterated the use of artificial application of water to support plant growth.

Joseph Ganda went on to inform that some of the constraints of irrigation are high initial cost of investment, proper land development, that technology increases production, that other factors should be taken onboard and that there is need for professionals to manage the system.

The International Consultant, SourakataBangoura, in his zoom presentation on Agricultural Irrigation Strategy Formulation: Concepts and Methodology, said that the project is not only about irrigation but water resources management to develop sustainable agriculture, availability of water resources and utilization, policy document and existing legislation and primary data that would be collected by the National Consultant for analysis.

He also dilated on irrigation schemes, operations and maintenance, institutional strengthening and capacity development.

The Director of Agricultural Engineering in the Ministry, Dr. Abdul Rahman Kamara, highlighted that Sierra Leone has the right soil for irrigation to flourish throughout the year disclosing that a National Soil Survey is currently ongoing to be completed next year.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Idara Sheriff, the Director General of Agriculture reiterated that the plan is coming at the right time for the country to attain food sufficiency and assured all of government’s fullest support to the project affirming that the country is in a hurry to develop.

Other presentations were made on the Technical Cooperation Project: Goals, Outputs and Activities while the group work and presentations on a Rapid Irrigation Stakeholders’ Analysis, Taking Stock of Past Experiences and Current Practices with Regards to Agricultural Irrigation in Sierra Leone and how to Scale-up Agricultural Irrigation in Sierra Leone. The question and answer session climaxed the event.