Saturday, 7 August 2010

Exclusive interview at FARA GA2010 (2): His Excellency Sam Sesay, Minister of Agriculture Sierra Leone

24th of July 2010. FARA GA 2010. Interview with His Excellency Sam Sesay, Minister of Agriculture of Sierra Leone

The importance of incentives for SME involvement in agricultural innovation platforms

Transcript of the interview:

Are researchers development oriented?
Researchers are far behind the development oriented aspirations. They used to be mainly production only oriented. Today the agriculture production mode has move to the agricultural value chain mode, which is looking at the whole spectrum that will enhance agricultural development. The researchers have to move likely: to look at the agro processing, to look at the marketing.  And even inside the production mode they need to look at what kinds of local manure can be promoted, what kind of appropriate technology can they develop which are labor saving? Not much has been done on those areas within the production research mode.  Within the agricultural value chain mode there is far more that research needs to do in the current situation.
What are innovation platforms?
We have to promote innovation platforms. In the innovation platform we ask how can we put all stakeholders together: the farmers, the researchers, the policy makers, the business people. How can we engender a dialogue to make sure “we put orders towards the researchers”? To tell them “this is exactly what we need”. All the stakeholders should identify what they want to be able to take active part in the agricultural value chain. And this is the source of development and agricultural research delivery products. And research should be transparent: accountable for the resources that were invested in the form of the products they promised to deliver to the stakeholders.
How should research be organized?
In Sierra Leone we decided to take the commodity chain. Because we want to take those commodities where Sierra Leone has a comparative advantage as a country.  The territorial approach make us less efficient and less effective. Therefore rice has been identified as a comparative advantage, cassava, oil palm, fisheries and non-timber products.
Besides rice, around which commodities do stakeholders collaborate?
Already we are doing something in cassava. Cassava processing has gained momentum in Sierra Leone along the value chain. We now package “gari” which is one of the products of cassava. And our “gari” is finding its way to Guinea, to Liberia and to many other places, and they are packaged in different sizes, even in small sizes of 1 kg that every ordinary person can buy.
What are the incentives for private sector involvement?
First and foremost, we used to see agricultural development as the task of the government. Since the seventies and the early eighties, when the public sector was told to move away from the market and allow the private sector to compete, that has been a very sluggish process. Governments still feel they have the responsibility to feed the people, to educate the people. If that does not happen because the private sector is not there, they have the temptation to move in. In Sierra Leone we try to restrain ourselves by creating an enabling environment. And this is what we have done with agriculture in Sierra Leone by having an incentive package for private sector promotion.  We give waivers; we give tax holidays depending on the investment from five to ten years. Even for the land tenure issue the government steps in as a middle person. There are many incentives for the private sector so that they can take over economies. All booming sectors in Europe, America, etc are private sector driven. Government has only a regulatory and monitoring function.
For innovative partnerships to last you need a conducive environment?