President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has held talks with Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio on the margins of the AU Summit, just-ended in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where both leaders discussed ways to improve farming in Sierra Leone, scale up nutrition and defeat stunting in children.
“Mr. President, malnutrition accounts for at least 11 per cent of Africa’s Gross Domestic Product. We have 65 per cent of the world’s remaining uncultivated arable land. We have an abundance of freshwater and about 300 days of sunshine a year. There’s no reason for anyone to go hungry,” Adesina told President Bio.
Dr. Adesina expressed his interest in visiting Sierra Leone next month. He also told the President and his delegation that the African Development Bank has already committed about $14 million, to help implement innovation in agriculture, tackle corruption in fertilizer distribution, seeds acquisition and distributions to farmers in the country.
Before joining AfDB, the multilateral regional development finance institution based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire in 2015, Dr. Adesina was Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture from 2011 to 2015, where he was widely credited for reducing the risk of corruption in the fertilizer industry by putting the private sector in charge of delivery.
Adesina spoke about the Brazilian model of reducing malnutrition, adding that the country had a zero hunger programme that prioritized high level of hygiene, high quality of food and feeding in schools and made sure that most of what was supplied and served were produced by local farmers.
He urged the government of Sierra Leone to adopt that model by having a direct stake in the feeding of children in schools, so as to increase enrolment, retention, and the overall reduction of hunger and achievement of Sierra Leone’s nutrition target.
Dr. Adesina observed that: “Farming might not be attractive in Sierra Leone because there is no guaranteed facility for lending to farmers. We can continue to engage your government to ensure the de-risking of farming, and introduce new rice variety”.
Sierra Leone’s Education Minister for Junior and Secondary Schools, Dr. Moinina David Sengeh, told the AfDB chief, that the Directorate of Science, Innovation and Technology, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has created the Integrated Geographic Information System Portal which utilizes technology, software and devices to collect, label and model data to inform real-time government and development of partner decision making.
President Bio thanked the AfDB President for his commitment to support Sierra Leone, and said he wished the bank had increased their investment, to which Dr. Adesina said they would take note.
“We have placed food security at the centre of our Human Capital Development priorities. We believe that food security and nutrition are inextricably connected to the total development of the human being in achieving their full potential,” President Bio told the AfDB President.
President Bio emphasized that the greatest contributor to economic growth is not physical infrastructure but “brainpower, which I can refer to as grey matter infrastructure”, and called on the AfDB and other partners to invest in better nutrition for children the future of the continent.