STATEMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY, DR. JULIUS MAADA BIO,
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE ON THE
OCCASION OF THE LAUNCH OF THE SIERRA LEONE REGIONAL
RICE VALUE CHAIN PROJECT, TORMA BUM. FRIDAY, 11TH JUNE,
2021

349


The Honourable Vice President,
Honourable Ministers of Government,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Our Development Partners and Members of the Diplomatic and Consular
Corps,
Representatives of The Islamic Development Bank and BADEA
Revered Traditional Rulers,
Our Partners in the private Sector,SLRRVCP TORMA BUM 2
2
Civil Society and the Press,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon.

  1. Let me first welcome and thank our development partners, the Islamic
    Development Bank, and BADEA. You have been consistent partners on this
    journey; you have shared our views; planned with us, and today is the day
    for implementing those ideas we have developed together. Thank you for
    your presence; thank you for your support.
  2. Food security is a central pillar among our human capital development
    priorities as a nation, if not the most critical. A well-nourished child or adult
    can stay healthy, live well, learn, fend for himself or herself, and live a
    reasonably good quality of life.
  3. We came into governance to low levels of food security, even though
    we have vast stretches of arable land in this country, consistent rainfall and
    rivers, and fairly even weather conditions. The price of our staple food, rice,
    has not been stable and consistent on the world market. There had been no
    well-thought-out and sustainable investments in the agriculture sector. Food
    insecurity therefore persisted.
  4. Instead of taking short-term populist actions and granting massive
    import subsidies at the detriment of the economy or pronouncing an
    overnight reduction in the price of a bag of rice for political propaganda
    purposes, we decided to think very closely about a permanent fix.
  5. Because we do not produce sufficient food for our population, we have
    increasingly spent hundreds of millions of dollars every year to procure food
    from the world market. Clearly, we are left at the detriment of the world
    food market as a result. Besides, a huge chunk of our foreign reserves that
    could have been spent on education and healthcare, among other urgent
    priorities for a developing nation, end up being spent on importing
    increasingly expensive food items.
  6. The situation is even more complicated when production capacity and
    supply chains are hit hard by shocks such as COVID-19, climate change
    disasters, and other economic shocks in food-exporting nations. The prices SLRRVCP TORMA BUM 3
    3
    of food change shoot upward on the world market. These price shocks are
    not good for food security, not good for the quality of life of our citizens, not
    good for our communities, and not good for the economy of the nation as a
    whole.
  7. In our governance assessment for our 2018 Manifesto and in our
    Medium-Term National Development Plan, we committed to working toward
    increasing the domestic production of food to significantly take care of our
    domestic needs and to ensure that the food produced domestically was
    available, affordable, and nutritious.
  8. We, therefore, decided on a well-thought-out, well-designed, wellimplemented, and sustainable solution. We can transform our vast arable
    lands into massive food production centres and thus make our nation
    rice/food self-sufficient and also food and nutrition secure.
  9. So let me once more thank the Islamic Development Bank and BADEA
    for examining our plan, identifying with the objectives of our commitments,
    and sharing our aspiration to work towards domestic food self-sufficiency.
    Essentially, we made a simple decision: to put whatever money we could
    garner where our mouths are.
  10. So, I am, therefore, very delighted to be here to launch the Sierra
    Leone Regional Rice Value Chain Project (SL-RRVCP). As with everything we
    do as a Government, we have been very intentional in our planning so that
    when once we deliver this solution, it will be sustainable and long-lasting.
    Traditional subsistence farming of low-yield seeds in small plots will not lead
    to domestic food sufficiency. The answer is in increased mechanisation and
    larger acreage yields, more access to input, more advanced farming
    techniques, and more agriculture financing that expands private sector
    investments in agriculture. So, we have put a number of things in place.
  11. We have made the ecosystem for farming more conducive:
    a. We have purchased 410 agricultural machinery and more than
    2,000 items of relevant implements;
    b. We have set up agricultural service centres, called Machine
    Rings, in fourteen (14) agricultural districts in the country, and made
    the agricultural machinery and the implements available to the private SLRRVCP TORMA BUM 4
    4
    sector and to provide machinery services to farmers at competitive
    rates. Our Machine Ring system is supporting poor farmers who cannot
    afford machinery and chiefdom youth rice farm projects.
    c. My Government has also revised the decades-old policy and
    practice of the public sector being responsible for procuring and
    distributing fertilizers and seeds to farmers. The private sector is now
    responsible for that.
    d. In order to strengthen the participation of the private sector,
    Government, through the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank,
    has ring-fenced $50million to support private sector investments in
    agriculture.
  12. By increasing the domestic production of rice, we could free up foreign
    exchange that will support our human capital development priorities in
    education, health, and in other aspects of agriculture and agribusiness.
  13. This project directly benefits 7,000 women and youth farmers, along
    with 35,000 farming families who are growing rice on 35,000 hectares of
    farmlands in the project locations. I am informed that the beneficiary
    identification and selection process was above board and merit-based.
  14. We decided so because we want to make agriculture more attractive
    to young people and women. We have established youth farms across the
    country to get greater participation and buy-in from youth. Agriculture is a
    source of wealth-creation.
  15. The Project’s operation sites are in Bum Chiefdom in Bonthe district in
    the South; and Mambolo and Samu Chiefdoms in Kambia District. There are
    prospects for expanding rice-value-chain development into other parts of this
    very fertile country. Other regions can therefore participate in this national
    food security project and reap the associated socio-economic benefits.
  16. Already Bum Chiefdom is involved in mechanised farming. Our
    Government is not the Government that grew rice in reports or on the radio.
    We grow rice in the fields and harvest it.SLRRVCP TORMA BUM 5
    5
  17. Added to this project that we are unveiling today as described by
    previous speakers, my Government launched the Rhombe rice cultivation
    project by Elite Agro that will put 30,000 hectares under cultivation.
  18. My Government is determined to stay fully involved with this project
    and its goals. We will work with partners to further expand operations,
    irrigate and drain larger areas for cultivation, bring in more investments, and
    expand domestic food production in Sierra Leone.
  19. With those few words, I now formally launch the Sierra Leone Regional
    Rice Value Chain Project.
    I thank you for your kind attention.