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Sunday, August 9, 2020

Cocoa Production: A New Engine of Economic Growth

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Before this time, especially after the discovery of diamonds in Kono District, Eastern Sierra Leone, in the early 1930s the country started experiencing a bustling economy and life for the average Sierra Leonean was encouraging until the euphoric emergence of Independence in April 27th 1961. On the contrary, the presence of diamonds in the country invited and led to the brutal civil war in several ways. First, the highly unequal benefits resulting from diamond mining made ordinary Sierra Leoneans frustrated. Under President Siaka Probyn Stevens’ regime, revenues from the National Diamond Mining Corporation were used for the personal enrichment of President Stevens, his close allies and business partners.

By the late 1980s, almost all of Sierra Leone’s diamonds were being smuggled and traded illicitly, with revenues going directly into the hands of private investors. In this period the diamond trade was dominated by Lebanese traders and later by Israelis with connections to the international diamond markets.

Diamonds also helped to arm the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels. The RUF used funds harvested from the alluvial diamond mines to purchase weapons and ammunition from neighbouring Guinea, Liberia, and Libya. But the most significant connection between diamonds and war is that the presence of easily extractable diamonds provided an incentive for violence.

The Voiceless Sierra Leoneans welcome the unflinching support from the World Bank, IFAD, JICA, GIZ and the UNFAO to reform the agricultural sector and particularly the cocoa production. The civil war affected the cocoa industry badly and the current objective of donor support to Sierra Leone is to improve on production and other value-added components for the benefit of the farmers and the state.

Sierra Leone’s economy according to the International Monetary Fund is forecasted to expand this year, the fastest pace in sub-Saharan Africa, after the start of iron-ore exports and improved agricultural output. The Research Department in the Bank of Sierra Leone disclosed that cocoa exports declined 20 percent to 9,250 and the shipments were 18,000 tons. In a bid to maximise production, the local farmers are encouraged to nurse more of the cocoa trees so that when these trees are fully grown, the country’s export volumes will shoot up. There has also been improvement in the fermentation and drying techniques to boost the quality of the beans pod. Some of the farmers spoken to in the provinces disclosed that they travelled to Ghana, the second largest producer of cocoa, where they visited the Ghana Research Institute to be trained in Farm Management, pruning practice and pest control during nursery practice in the farm.

This giant move, according to report, is because some years ago, Sierra Leone was notorious for its bad quality of cocoa. The cocoa product was not used for chocolate, but it was used into cosmetics such as cream and soap or any other powder product.

District Agricultural Officer in Kono District, Musa Kandeh, says the key priority of the rural farmers in Kono and the other districts is roads rehabilitation and construction. He says if the country wants to see a rapid boom in the agricultural sector for the benefit of the average Sierra Leonean, the Government and other development partners should help in the construction of roads to link the farmers to the market centers to avoid their farming products from going bad.

“Diamond is no longer for the poor. Diamond buying is capital intensive because the activities has today moved from manual to mechanised mining,” said Kandeh, admonishing further that the Government must concentrate on agriculture which he says is the socio-economic engine to the economic growth of Sierra Leone.

He informed that the scientific name for the cocoa tree is Theobroma cacao which means food for the gods. He noted that it was used as a currency by the Maya Indians who were the ones to discover the value of cocoa.

Meanwhile, there is need to overhaul the agricultural sector in order to either reactivate the defunct Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board or put rigid monitoring and accountable structure in place so that the agricultural sector can become beneficial in its entirety. According to Ohio University researchers, Tadeusz, cocoa beans are a natural source of magnesium and therefore help to relieve pre-menstrual syndrome in women; prevent and treat cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) diseases including angina and irregular heartbeat. It also helps keep the blood vessels that supply blood to your heart from tightening, an action that can cause intense chest pain known as angina; reduce diabetic risk and to finally reduce elevated blood pressure by relaxing the muscles that control blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely.

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