The economy of the Republic of Sierra Leone has for a long time been tied to investments in the mining sector with emphasis on diamonds, bauxite and iron ore. With more than 60% of the population deriving a living from an agricultural sector that is blessed with abundant arable land, water and a favorable climate, agriculture offers the best prospects for achieving economic development. The Government has therefore embarked on an Agenda for Prosperity that is strongly aligned to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP); which is the vision of African Heads of State and Government for transforming the agricultural sector. The agenda calls for diversification of the economic base and repositioning of agriculture as the pivot along with fisheries, tourism and industry to drive the economic development of the country.
Transformation of the agricultural sector calls for the strengthening of science, environment, technology and innovations as the key drivers of the agricultural growth required for wealth creation and poverty reduction. The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) is supporting the Government’s efforts to bring science, technology and innovation to bear on agricultural development of the country.
In collaboration with the Office of the President of Sierra Leone, the World Bank, FAO and CORAF/WECARD, FARA is supporting a three-day consultative dialogue organized at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown, Sierra Leone from 11 – 14 November, 2013. The dialogue is intended to set the vision for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation in promoting agriculture, fisheries and industrial development in Sierra Leone. Welcoming participants to the dialogue, the Special Adviser to the President of Sierra Leone and Ambassador at Large, Prof. Monty Jones underscored the need to place science, technology and innovation at the forefront of agriculture, fisheries and industrial development of Sierra Leone. Opening the three-day dialogue, the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone H.E. Ernest Bai Koroma called on all participants to come up with concrete suggestions on the type of science and technology that is required to transform agriculture, fisheries and agro-industrial development of the country.
Delivering a statement on behalf of FARA, the Executive Director Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo noted that the dialogue on visioning for environment, science, technology and innovation is congruent with FARA’s new strategic orientation. As a continent-wide forum, FARA’s role is to support its constituents in strategic analysis and foresight so that they can determine the type of agriculture that they want; build their capacity to develop agriculture; and help establish the appropriate policy environment for a highly productive and competitive agricultural sector. All of these, he said, are part of the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A) that FARA and its partners including the SROs, IFAD, CGIAR, World Bank are currently developing as one of the five work streams of the Dublin process.
To promote experience sharing and learning from the Sierra Leone case, FARA is supporting the participation of CAADP country focal persons from other West African countries. Apart from supporting the dialogue, FARA has also assisted the institutional reforms of the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI) and is currently implementing the region-wide initiatives on the Dissemination of New Agricultural Technologies (DONATA) and the Regional Agricultural Information and Learning Systems (RAILS) in Sierra Leone. Through FARA’s interventions, Sierra Leone has adopted the Innovation Platform (IP) and Innovative Fund for Agricultural Transformation (IFAT) concepts. It is worth noting that through these concepts, we now see a Sierra Leone brand of rice not only on the shelves of many supermarkets in the country, but also being exported to neighboring countries.
FARA’s resolve is to continue to advocate for policies that lead to increased investments in agriculture and agricultural research for development in particular, as this is a necessary condition for increasing agricultural productivity and competitiveness in Africa.