In his first policy announcement, the Minister confirmed that he intends to keep the six divisions in the Ministry. He stressed that his commitment is to embed all the projects – seven ongoing or just about to terminate – “but we want to see all our projects incorporated into all the six divisions of the Ministry to increase collaboration and reduce duplication,” but he added that he had instituted two key directives to strengthen their work. Firstly, he had established an Executive Management Committee (EMC) which assists in the decision making process at the Ministry and exemplifies his consultative e way of leadership. Secondly, the Minister announced the formation of the Strategic Advisory Unit (SAU) for which recruitment is currently on going. He reiterated that he views the SAU as a strategic Think Tank that will advise the Minister whilst acting as the monitoring eyes and ears of the Ministry to ensure that the Divisions are making the desired impact by their work. He explained that the SAU will interact with every Division and every project in the sector to strengthen service delivery and align the goals of the Ministry such as to increase production and productivity in the immediate future.
The Minister stated that this retreat has been called to promote agricultural growth and development in Sierra Leone, and that this is a retreat to reduce foreign exchange expenditure on agricultural products. These are very important priorities that have been captured in the Presidential recovery initiative and so the focus would be on these two priorities and sub initiatives. “so that we can achieve the goals we have set for the 10-24 months period.” The Minister went on to state that the Ministry should promote agricultural production and productivity and concentrate on total factor productivity. “We should increase productivity between 2 – 4 tonnes per hectare on rice cultivation, and encourage our farmers to go down to the lowlands and promote sustainable agricultural productivity.” The Minister admonished farmers to discourage slash and burn and other destructive activities that are harmful to the environment and instead use methodologies that are more beneficial to commercialization. “We must encourage private sector, work across the value chain from research to extension to production and in all intent, to align ourselves to the Presidential initiatives and move from the farm to industry.” He continued
The Minister challenged his officials to be innovative in supporting those who want to help the country achieve its objectives to increase production and productivity while at the same time ensuring that farmer’s and land owners welfare are secured by market price valuations and support for out grower schemes that would change and improve farmers’ lives. He stated that since assuming office, he has engaged on nine projects which are in various stages of negotiation and have so far signed contracts with two projects expected to start imminently. The SEWA project will bring 35,000 hectares of rice into production with ancillary milling and local development services for the community at Tormabum while the Sierra Tropics project has secured land in Bo and is scheduled to start this year. He also mentioned another project that would engage in poultry and maize with a production capacity for 500,000 day old chicks into the poultry sector. The Minister promised that projects would be spread across the countries with a view to leveraging benefits to every corner of the country and to anchor projects in areas where they would have the requisite comparative advantage.
He concluded by throwing a challenge to the delegates to map out a paradigm shift in agriculture in Sierra Leone, to identify and set a road map on how the Ministry can deliver on increasing production and productivity and for this retreat to establish a benchmark for value addition across the agriculture value chain to secure the objective of over 10,000 jobs for young people in agriculture. He warned that there will be no room to continue with business as usual but rather for thinking to be done outside the box as this is the beginning of “business unusual.”