Solidaridad West Africa, the Government of Sierra Leone and UNFAO promote Responsible Agricultural Investment

A cross section of participants at the 2-day training held at Kobeibu Hotel in Bo City, Southern Sierra Leone.

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla

Many African countries including Sierra Leone are seeking better ways of attracting responsible agri-based investments as a catalyst for achieving economic growth through industralization. However, analysis shows that large-scale agricultural investment in Sierra Leone is yet to meet the international Corporate Social Responsibilty (CSR) principles for enhancing local livelihoods. 

To strike a balance between attracting foreign agricultural investments while ensuring a responsible investment climate, the Government, led by the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) is in the process of finalizing a tool known as the ‘Agribusiness Investment Approval Process (AIAP)’. The tool is currently being tested on existing four investment companies to assess the applicability while ensuring that existing legislations are aligned with the AIAP.

The project, ‘Supporting the Implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests – Phase II’ is funded by DFID. Through this project Solidaridad West Africa was contracted to train and sensitize Traditional Authorities and communities on the Agribusiness Investment Approval Process (AIAP) in line with Responsible Agricultural Investments (RAI) in Sierra Leone.

As part of creating awareness and building the capacity towards this drive, a two-day workshop was organized from August 2-3, 2019 for staff of the four pilot companies including Sierra Tropical, Miro Forestry, Lizard Earth and Gold Tree Holdings Limited. The training was conducted by Solidaridad Sierra Leone and facilitated by members of the Responsible Agricultural Investment Technial Working Group (RAI-TWG) drawn from the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA), Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), Ministry of Lands Housing and Environment (MLHE), the Human Rights Commission (HRC), Transparency International (TI) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN).This training forms part of the agreement between FAO-UN and Solidaridad West Africa to conduct training and sensitization for traditional authorities, communities and staff of four pilot agribusiness companies on the AIAP. 

In his welcome address, Nicholas Jengre, the Country Representative of Solidaridad Sierra Leone, said “One of the key components of the Agribusiness Investment Approval Process (AIAP) is to empower community people and landowners to have a say on what their land is used for. In the past, we have seen that investments have deprived  communities of land to grow food crops – thereby increasing the food and nutrition insecurity within such investment sites.” 

Mr. Nicholas reminded participants of the recently released 2018 FAO Food Index Report entitled: “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World”, which revealed an alarming 820,000,000 people in the world who did not have enough to eat in 2018. Africa, he continues, was largely affected. “We cannot continue in this way, so the AIAP is supporting the drive to ensure that agribusinesses are carried out in ways that ensures communities have sufficient land for crop production and significant vegetation for their natural resource needs”.

The Investment Promotion Manager of the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA), Hardy Jalloh assured participants that the finalized investment approval process would bring in more investors because it will not only guarantee sustainability but also security of their investments.  

The seven steps of the AIAP includes 1) a potential investor contacts SLIEPA 2) SLIEPA and the potential investor visits potential communities 3) the investor undertakes feasibility and identifies legitimate land owners 4)The investor negotiates with land owners 5) the investor conducts environmental, social and health impact studies 6) signing of agreement and 7) Start of operations.

While facilitating the training, the National Project Consultant  of the project, Mr. Gbessay Ehlogima Sam Momoh reiterated the importance of the training in helping to create a conducive environment for investors to be responsible, accountable, transparent, and respecting the ten principles in responsible agricultural investment. Other relevant concepts relating to the AIAP were delivered during this training session by the RAI-TWG members: the key provisions in the National Land Policy by Jobo Samba from the Ministry of Land, Housing and Environment (MLHE), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and priority areas of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) by Jeneba Ahlarzm , environmental compliance and the seven stages in conducting environmental impact assessment by Alfred Jondie from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Human Rights Commission led by Abdulai Yolla Bangura presented on the human perspectives as well as the Free Prior and Informed Consent principles while Edward Koroma from Transparency International presented on Transparency and Accountability in line with the AIAP. 

Lyttelton Braima, a participant from Sierra Tropical Limited stressed that effective community consultation processes will ensure a smooth take-off of any agribusiness project since all stakeholders would have been well informed. He appealed to his colleagues to ensure that companies set up multistakeholder platforms at their investment sites to promote effective consultations.

Investment in the agro-industry could save the Sierra Leone economy

By Alpha Bedoh Kamara

Sierra Leone Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Jonathan Joseph Ndanema, said in 2018 at the Agro-Tourism Festival in Bonthe Municipal Island that ‘his ministry was working on transforming agriculture into a business adventure capable of producing enough food for consumption and for export’.

The minister’s statement, like similar ones made by previous ministers, captured the attention of the local media, making the headlines in the news. People in small towns and villages who make the bulk of the farming community heard the pronouncement on radio and during barray talks, while the fortunate few in big towns and cities saw his animated oratory on TV and on the front pages of the major newspapers.

Unfortunately, the status of the agriculture sector in the country is still in a moribund state yet in craftily prepared government papers the sector is a ‘success story that will soon be‘ producing enough food for consumption and for export’.  It is sad that despite what was said during the campaign amid laudable promises made to address the challenges affecting the agricultural sector for sustainable food production through proactive agro-investment opportunities, the country’s staple food is still being largely imported from Asia.

This situation largely affects women in the country who make the majority of the country’s population as well as the majority engaged in farming activities. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nation (FAO) 2018 report captioned, Country Gender Assessment Series: National gender profile of agriculture and rural livelihoods – Sierra Leone, “…Sufficient effort has not been made by the GoSL and its partners to ensure equitable access to natural resources and means of production. Rural women farmers deserve better recognition and greater appreciation of their tangible contributions to agriculture, rural development and food security”.

There are so many calls to attention for the Government of Sierra Leone to address the problems affecting the agricultural industry, yet things never change. Sierra Leone was among the leading exporters of agricultural produce in Africa. The country was a net exporter of cocoa, coffee, piassavas, rubber, palm oil, sugar and rice, among many other agricultural goods.

Today, Sierra Leone is a net importer of food because of poor governance and neglect by the administrators and the once lucrative sector left in lie fallow. Therefore, the country doesn’t need any other agricultural jargon to put the people at ease. There have been too many, spanning from Green Revolution, National Food Security, and many others, yet imported food is driving out local farmers from the farms.

The people are tired of hearing this rhetoric and want the Government to not only be talking the talk, but working the talk, so that the country could once more produce enough food for consumption and for export.

The lack of sustained and unbiased government investments in this sector as well as high level of corruption in the implementation of public agricultural projects, poor awareness raising about marketing potentials and poor publicity of local goods in the international market affect agricultural activities.

There is too much to gain from this sector but unfortunately instead of clearing the land to plough for food the land is being destroyed by widespread mining activities while the government is signing licenses for miners to continue dig the land for minerals! The once fertile lands in the East and the South which were once the harbingers for sustained food production for local consumption and export are today struggling with the scar of deep mining, and the North – presently being drained for iron ore!

Until the Government think out of the box by realizing that addressing the needs of the people through direct intervention in the agricultural sector is the only way the problem of hunger could be addressed. I am hopeful President Maada Bio will not again join the bandwagon of presidents who put the people on edge with flowery ‘agricultural jargons’ but rather will make sure his minister of agriculture not only rely on international stakeholders to salvage the country from the present agricultural malaise, but ensure money budgeted for agriculture is put to effective use in the best interest of the country. The country also needs a better and reliable statistical data of all agricultural activities, the types of farming and their impact in the local market. The data will help the government to take informed decisions for effective budgeting and channeling of grants and incentives from the government/NGOs to local farmers.

Therefore instead of just embarking on nationwide tours of small agricultural fairs for speech making, the ministry of agriculture should be engaging local farmers to understand their needs and challenges that affect this sector. Lack of a strong local market, unavailable or poor infrastructure for the majority of farm communities, lack of electricity and technical support, and cheap imported foodstuff are some of the hindrances putting local farmers out of jobs.

The country will only make sustainable food production for local consumption and for export if the Government stops playing with the farmers vulnerabilities by putting a stop to ‘white elephant’ agricultural projects and ensures transparency and accountability in the ministry as well as private sector investments. 

Farmers on the frontline in battle against drug-resistant microbes: UN health agency

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has revealed that as some 700,000 people are dying each year from antimicrobial resistant infections, an untold number of sick animals are also suffering from diseases that do not respond to treatment.

Marking World Antibiotic Awareness Week, FAO stressed that farmers have a vital role to play in stemming the spread of what is known as antimicrobial resistance, or AMR, and called on them to boost hygiene practices in day-to-day farm operations.

“When we use antimicrobials excessively on farms, we’re contributing to the spread of AMR, as resistant pathogens move into the environment through animal waste and farm runoff,” said Juan Lubroth, FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer, on Wednesday.

“They can even contaminate our food systems and market chains, moving from the fields and stables to our tables,” he noted.

According to FAO, one person dies every minute from a drug-resistant infection, a number that will only increase without global action. By 2050, the growing AMR threat will cost the global economy an estimated $6 trillion dollars every year. 

AMR also has major implications for food safety, food security and the livelihoods of millions of farming households across the planet, who can ill afford production losses, the costs of caring for sick animals, or livestock casualties.

“If we are to feed a growing population and keep antimicrobials working,” said Dr. Lubroth, “we need to invest in our farmers and food production systems to shift to more sustainable agricultural practices.” 

“Antimicrobial resistance is a concern for all of us,” said FAO Assistant Director-General Bukar Tijani. “There are over seven billion consumers in the world, and food safety and quality are paramount to success in meeting many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.”

Farmers are ‘frontline defenders’ against superbug spread

Antimicrobial drugs are widely used for domestic animals, in fish farms and even on crops and across fruit orchards – sometimes as preventative measures to stave off infections and fatten animals faster.

Their improper use has contributed to an increase in the number of resistant microbes that, among other problems, renders treatments useless against some serious infections.

Calling farmers “one of the important frontline defenders” in the battle to contain the growing threat of AMR, Dr. Lubroth urged them to practice good farm hygiene, get veterinary advice before using antimicrobials and to exchange best-practices with neighbours. 

He also called on farmers to demand quality animal feed without added antibiotics or other antimicrobials.

Each November, World Antibiotic Awareness Week reminds everyone of antibiotic resistance and encourages best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance.

Sierra Leone: Stakeholders Sensitized On VGGT And New Land Policy 


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations on Wednesday 22nd and Friday 24th August 2018 ended sensitization meetings on the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) in the Context of National Food Security and the National Land Policy in Sierra Leone in Mongo Bendugu, Falaba District and Kamakwie in the Karene District all in the Northern Province.

The two sensitization meetings were attended by representatives of Paramount Chiefs, the Office of National Security, youths, women and religious leaders, Local Councils, Mammy Queens, District Officers, Chief Administrators and civil society organizations all of whom pledged to sensitize others about the VGGT and new Land Policy.

75 participants attended the meeting at the Multi-Purpose Hall in Mongo Bendugu, Falaba District while 65 attended in Kamakwie at the Karene District Council Hall.

Welcoming the FAO team and participants, the Regent Paramount Chief of Mongo Bendugu, Falaba District, Sheku Jawara underscored the importance of the meeting as their survival depends on land, that land is a top priority, appealed to FAO to support farmers adding that Falaba is a new district crippling with development challenges and that chiefs are key in land issues.

The Senior District Officer of Falaba, Mr. Haroun Keh Turay in his presentation on the Role of Local Councils, Paramount Chiefs and other Local Authorities in the Implementation of the VGGT and the National Land Policy in Sierra Leone disclosed that there are two different land policies in the country-one for the Western Area where citizens can buy, sell and own land while in the provinces land is communal and family owned and cannot be sold adding that the Ministry of Local Government has more lands than the Ministry of Lands for which the former Minister of Local Government was the Chairman of the Land Policy Committee adding that for land disputes Town Chiefs are the first port of call, followed by Paramount Chiefs and magistrates but warned Paramount Chiefs to be inclusive, transparent and accountable in land issues informing that some functions are yet to be devolved to Local Councils.

Mr. Haroun Keh Turay went on to state that Sierra Leone is a case study for the implementation of the VGGT, that Regional Land Committees were recently formed while plans are underway to setup District, Chiefdom and Village Land Committees and commended the District for donating land to government for development purposes but stressed that women now have right to land, urged all to do away with bad customs and traditions and underlined that the new Land Policy would protect investors, prevent land conflicts appealed for the VGGT and new Land Policy documents to be distributed to stakeholders.

The Chief Administrator of Falaba District, Mr. Morlai Pat. Kamara assured FAO that the council wants to eliminate poverty, that the visit is timely, assured FAO of support, that the new Land Policy would prevent land conflicts underscoring that the people would only benefit from their lands with security and sustainable investments, appealed to the people to make land available for investments but cautioned that they must preserve the beauty of their lands and sensitize others about the VGGT and new Land Policy.

sierra_leone_cp_ll.jpgMrs. Martha Davies, Project Manager for the VGGT highlighted the objectives of the workshops among them to raise awareness about the governance of tenure, prevention of conflicts, that land can be used for agriculture, forestry and other economic sources of income, burial grounds, reiterated that Paramount Chiefs are custodians of lands and observed that most conflicts are related to land concluding that Sierra Leone is a signatory to the VGGT.

Mrs. Davies continued that the VGGT would help Paramount Chiefs to rule justly, that with the exception of the new Districts of Falaba and Kenene, the others have been sensitized about the VGGT and the new National Land Policy that all stakeholders and citizens must be aware of as they would help communities to live in peace and harmony, that Sierra Leone has practicalized the VGGT, that Bo District is a role model for land issues but clarified that FAO is also learning from the people during the workshops.

Mrs. Davies furthered that the Council of Paramount Chiefs and Members of Parliament have also been sensitized about the VGGT and new National Land Policy.

On behalf of the FAO Representative in Sierra Leone, Dr. Nyabenyi Tipo, Mrs. Josephine Koroma commended Falaba District for the warm reception accorded the team, informed the people that FAO gives technical support to governments the world over to eradicate hunger, ensure food security and even export, end malnutrition, govern natural resources in a sustainable and responsible manner and ensure responsible investments in agriculture and presented a paper on the Origin of the VGGT, Concepts and Implementation Status in  Sierra Leone.

According to Mrs. Josephine Koroma, the VGGT was approved at the World Food Security Meeting in May 2012, that Sierra Leone signed the agreement in April 2014 and setup a Multi-Stakeholders’ Committee, highlighted the advantages of the VGGT among them human dignity, zero discrimination, inclusion of the physically challenged, equity and justice, is holistic, promotes responsible governance, admonished the people not to over-exploit the environment, emphasized that they must only welcome responsible investments and asserted that the FAO is encouraging government to implement the Land Policy.

She further informed that the VGGT is a reference material, that a Multi-Stakeholders’ platform on the VGGT would be held in September this year, dilated on the Women’s Customary Land Rights pilot project in Bo, Kenema and Bombali Districts and continued that FAO is also working to end deforestation  and land degradation in the country, introduce new technologies to improve agriculture and highlighted some of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals FAO is working to actualize like zero poverty, zero hunger, gender equality, reduction of inequalities and climate action disclosing that FAO also works with partners like government, CSOs, academia and the private sector.

In his presentation on the implementation of the National Land Policy: The Current Status, Mr. Rashid Charles Ngiawee, Staff Supervisor/Head of Land Reform Program in the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment reiterated that land is a serious issue full of challenges and affects all, appealed to participants to be attentive adding that as a new District, Falaba has challenges highlighting that the new Land Policy is one of the best in the world as it conforms with the VGGT, observed that after the civil war the institutions governing the land tenure system weakened while the judiciary had challenges to address grievances resulting to violence insisting that demand for land far exceeds supply and pointed out that the Ministry is not present nationwide.

According to Mr. Rashid Charles Ngiawee, the 2017-2027 National Land Policy Implementation Plan has institutional framework programs including the Reform Unit, the National Land Policy Steering Committee, Regional Land Oversight Committees and disclosed that the Ministry is working with the World Bank to implement land administration.

The representative of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Jeneba Jenalharazim said the Ministry would soon establish offices in Falaba and Keneme Districts and has already deployed a District Agriculture Officer in Karene, that the Ministry is supporting the VGGT to secure and support large-scale investments and called for transparent agreements that must include transfer of technology to locals assuring that the Ministry is ready to support farmers.

The Chairman of the Karene District Council, Mr. John Ditto Kamara informed that the District comprises 13 chiefdoms-8 from Bombali and 5 from Port Loko but lamented that most of the chiefdoms are vulnerable, that the Otamba Kilimi National Park is located in the District near the Guinean border, has most of the Inland Valley Swamps and bolilands, is rich in animal husbandry and is the only District with 5 ferries that are unseaworthy.

He went on to state that there is high rate of poverty in the District, that women are more active in agriculture in the District, that all the issues raised at the meeting are very important to the District and called for a Licensed Surveyor to plan the district disclosing that the Ministry of Agriculture has 100% devolved its functions to the Council and is the first to deploy a Director on the ground.

According to Mr. John Ditto Kamara, mankind is responsible for climate change citing Kono District and Sierra Rutile in the Moyamba District where large-scale mining has destroyed the environment.

Mr. Victor Bangura from the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) observed that in the past, investors did not do the right things and informed participants about the agro-business development approval process for Sierra Leone to help investors but pointed out that the process is different in every sector.

He also talked about the 7 steps to start a business to prevent problems citing the case of Socfin in Pujehun District, due diligence, background check of companies underscoring that the process must be inclusive, transparent and must involve all stakeholders from the inception stage adding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also mandated to conduct Environmental Impact Assessments, that SLIEPA monitors investments, ensures jobs and its multiplying effects and ended that SLIEPA is working with various stakeholders in the agriculture, fisheries and other sectors.

On the CSO perspectives on VGGT and National Land Policy, Mr. Abass Kamara of the Sierra Leone Network on the Right to Food said they monitor the activities of government and multi-national companies on how their work affects farmers, that most of the rice consumed in Sierra Leone is imported from Pakistan when Kambia and Port Loko Districts alone can feed the entire nation and even export and lamented that the $500 million Addax Bio Energy Company investment has collapsed.

He also accused Addax Bio Energy Company of giving money to Local Councils to support their illegal activities and commended the VGGT and Land Policy as exemplary in complementing the efforts of government intimating the 2003 Maputo Protocol calls on African Governments to spend 10% of their national budgets on agriculture revealing that in Sierra Leone it was 1.6% in 2011-2012 but has increased to over 12% now.

Mr. Abass Kamara also stated that 97 references were made from the VGGT to formulate the Land Policy, that the world has rated Sierra Leone high for implementation of the VGGT followed by Senegal and Mexico reiterating that the new Land Policy would reduce poverty and pointed out that Sierra Leone does not have a policy on biofuel.

Some of the questions/concerns raised by participants included the establishment of a special Land Court to fast-track cases, that investors should negotiate with landowners, that government must adequately compensate landowners, that Yogomayia in the Koinadugu District is the most planned city in the country and that a land plan not signed by Local Councils and Traditional Authorities is still valid.

Others were that the law protects Paramount Chiefs from testifying in court except with the permission of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice through the Minister of Local Government and that land appreciates daily.

Musical performances as well as distribution of the VGGT and the National Land Policy documents climaxed the two workshops.



UN Agencies, Government Distribute LPG Stoves to Rohingya Refugees, Bangladeshi Villagers to Save Remaining Forests

A major environmental project to provide around 250,000 families with liquid petroleum gas (LPG) stoves and gas cylinders has been launched by UN agencies and the government in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to help prevent further deforestation linked to the Rohingya refugee crisis.


UN agencies and Bangladesh government launch alternative fuel project in Cox’s Bazar to help reduce deforestation linked to Rohingya crisis. Photos: Patrick Shepherd FAO/IOM

At the official launch of phase one of the project yesterday (16/08), over 300 local villagers identified by local officials as extremely vulnerable and in need of support were the first to receive stove and gas sets. Thousands more will be distributed to Rohingya refugees and other host community families over the coming months.

The alternative fuel initiative is being organized by the UN Migration Agency (IOM), UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), working closely with Bangladesh’s Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MODMR) and Commissioner for Refugee Repatriation and Relief (RRRC).

The launch was attended by senior Bangladeshi officials including Commissioner for Refugee Repatriation and Relief Mohammad Abul Kalam, Divisional Commissioner for Chittagong Mohammad Abdul Mannan, and Deputy Commissioner for Cox’s Bazar Mohammad Kamal Hossain.

Cox’s Bazar was home to significant areas of protected forest and an important wildlife habitat. But the arrival of over 700,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar over the past year led to massive deforestation as desperate families cut down trees and cleared land to make space for makeshift shelters.

With refugees and many local villagers almost entirely reliant on firewood for cooking, that damage has continued, and forest is being cleared at a rate of 700 metric tonnes – the equivalent of around four football fields of trees – each day. If cutting continues at the current rate, the area’s forest will be completely destroyed by the end of 2019, according to UN estimates.

“This is a vitally important project which will not only help mitigate and redress deforestation and environmental damage but will also play an important role in improving health and safety in the local and refugee communities,” said Sanjukta Sahany, head of IOM’s transition and recovery team in Cox’s Bazar.

Smoke from firewood being burned in homes and shelters without proper ventilation is a significant cause of health problems, particularly among women and young children, who spend much of their time indoors.

The reliance on firewood has also raised protection concerns, with most wood collection being carried out by children, who have had to venture further from homes to find wood, as the forest has been cut back. Competition for this increasingly rare resource is also a growing source of conflict between the refugees and local communities.

“By curbing the extraction of firewood from the remaining forests, it allows us to protect, re-enter and replant,” explained Peter Agnew, FAO’s emergency response coordinator in Cox’s Bazar. He noted that the alternative fuel project is part of the wider SAFE Plus project, which is designed to improve economic livelihoods for host communities, and in turn overall food security, as well as the resilience of the refugees, by empowering them through skills development.

“Over the next three years, several thousand people from the local and refugee communities will have livelihood opportunities working on forest rehabilitation with the SAFE Plus project, in coordination with the forestry department,” he said.