The Deputy Executive Director of European Cooperative for Rural Development (EUCORD), Mr. Neils Hanssens said EUCORD is a modest sized non Governmental organisation based in Brussels which specializes in demand driven agricultural development with a goal of alleviating rural poverty through increasing agricultural productivity which he said implies that they look for agro-processing companies that wish to build and improve their local supply chain and are willing to partner with them.
He continued that they have had the benefit from collaborating with Heineken and its daughter companies for the last ten years including seven years in Sierra Leone.
He revealed that the CREATE Project is jointly funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Sierra Leone Brewery Limited which was officially launched in Sierra Leone in April 2013.
He maintained that the project started well and has been doing very well but that the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease had an adverse impact on the project both in terms of farmer development and on the capacity of the company to meet the challenges it posed to its operations.
He noted that travel and access restrictions resulted in the project team being unable to do much although the team was able to support the 2015 planning season.
He explained that at the demand end of the value chain, the economic impact of the Ebola had significant effects on demand for Brewery products as most bars and restaurants were closed to reduce the spread of the disease which forced the company to reduce their production by around forty percent which had a direct impact on the quantity of sorghum that they needed for production.
He noted that the Sierra Leone Brewery Limited planned investment in a new mash filter was further delayed by the Ebola, pointing out that the mash filter is a critical piece of equipment that will allow the company to use more sorghum faster and increase future demand from local farmers. He stated that now that the Ebola disease is over they will start operating the mash filter during the second half of 2016.
He disclosed that they will provide an additional one Hundred and Fifty five Thousand Dollars ($155,000.00) to the said project.
Mr. Dennis Jusu from the Sierra Leone Sorghum Farmers and Marketers Association said that when the project was launched in 2006, they had a lot of reservations about its future development, because many projects have come and gone without any significant impact on the people of the country.
He noted that it goes without saying that sorghum crop in Sierra Leone is one of the under-utilized crops before the intervention of the project but noted that at present sorghum is well known in every corner of the country and beyond.
He continued that they are proud to announce that the small sorghum farmers group of Sierra Leone has transformed the sorghum crop into one of the most renowned commercial products of the country to get international recognition.
He said it was worthy to note that because of its importance in 2010, the United Nations and the Sierra Leone Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture gave an award to the Sorghum project in Sierra Leone.
He pointed that President Ernest Bai Koroma during his visit to Heineken in Amsterdam in 2014 also made several proclamations concerning the development of the sorghum project in Sierra Leone.
In his keynote address, the Managing Director of Sierra Leone Brewery Limited, Mr. Alphonse Will Ngana, said Tuesday, December, 15th, 2015 signifies a day of success, renewed commitment and solidifies the company and Heineken International’s demonstrated commitment to growing with their communities and partnering with key stakeholders for growth and development.
He noted that the sorghum project has significantly improved the livelihood of thousands of farmers and farm families, pointing out that with the recent huge investment in a mash filter plant and brew house upgrade worth forty billion Leones they are poised to expand the sorghum sector.
He disclosed that in line with the Government Post Ebola Recovery Plan especially in relation to the agricultural sector, that despite all the challenges they have faced in the recent past, the Dutch Government and Heineken International has agreed to extend the project from 2017-2019 to allow the project to play a significant role in the Sierra Leone economic recovery programme and to give sufficient time for the project to be sustainably embedded in the country with an increased budget of twelve billion Leones for 2013-2017 to a revised to thirty one billion seven hundred million Leones spanning through 2013-2019.
He further stated that the 2016 sorghum supply is expected to increase by twenty five percent compared to 2015 as the main objective for 2016 is to deliver six hundred and twenty eight metric tons of sorghum to the company.
He concluded that with the new innovation being generated from this project especially with the new and affordable one hundred percent sorghum, they are ready to expand their operations, introduce more exiting products on the market and create more employment for the people of this country.