African Development Bank unveils strategy roadmap to safeguard food security against impacts of COVID-19

The African Development Bank ( has unveiled a strategic roadmap of projects and programmes to assist African countries in tackling the nutrition and food security aspects of the COVID-19 crisis through a raft of immediate and longer-term measures.

The Feed Africa Response to COVID-19 (FAREC) paves the way for a comprehensive intervention to build resilience, sustainability and regional self-sufficiency in Africa’s food systems and help farmers cope with coronavirus-related disruptions to the agricultural value chain.

“The Bank’s response to support the agriculture sector lays out specific measures aimed at addressing challenges faced by African countries across all aspects of the agriculture sector. Africa cannot afford a food crisis in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Jennifer Blanke, the Bank’s Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development.

A report released alongside the roadmap recommends immediate, short- and medium-term solutions for the agriculture sector including; support of food delivery for the most vulnerable; stabilization of food prices; optimization of food processing; extension support services, and provision of key agricultural inputs through smart subsidies.

According to the report, the Bank will prioritize policy support to enhance movement of inputs and food, to establish food security task forces in countries, and to strengthen the capacity of regional organisations to monitor multi-country initiatives. 

The pandemic has worsened volatility in the price of food staples and complicated food system actors’ investment decision-making. The confluence of impacts risks deepening food insecurity and malnutrition. According to the World Food Programme, over 40 million West Africans face food shortages in the coming months.

FAREC forms one part of the Bank’s COVID-19 Response Facility (CRF) of up to $10 billion. The CRF is the Bank’s primary channel to deploy financial and technical measures to cushion African economies and livelihoods against the health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic.

In May, the Bank’s African Development Institute, its focal point for capacity development, hosted a seminar that examined the pandemic’s impacts on Africa’s agri-food systems and offered  policy recommendations to make them more resilient and efficient.

“Ensuring food security for Africans in all situations is at the core of the Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy. Our institution will coordinate its efforts with different stakeholders across the continent to effectively answer the needs of regional member countries,” said Dr. Martin Fregene, Director of the Bank’s Agriculture and Agro-industry Department.

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. 

Overcoming challenges of food insecurity and lack of WASH facilities in Bonthe District

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

Most of the communities in Bonthe Sherbro Island depend on sources like this for drinking water  

Located in the Southern Province of Sierra Leone, with 32 miles long and 15 miles wide covering an area of approximately 230 square miles, Bonthe Sherbro Island is one of the areas with the greatest food insecurity and poorest access to WASH facilities in the small West African country.

Communities in Bonthe largely get their drinking water from rivers or brooks, which is a serious health risk.

“The greatest challenge in the Sherbro Island has been water and the water we are drinking has a lot of salt in it. The water resembles clay. There is no school with WASH facilities not to talk about good toilet,” said Mayor of the Bonthe Municipal Council, Layemin Joe Sandi.

Moreover, according to the 2015 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Assessment (CFSVA) conducted by the World Food Programme (WFP), 49.8% of households across Sierra Leone are affected by food insecurity, and 59.7% in rural areas. Since 2010, food insecurity in Bonthe region has doubled, making it one of the most food insecure districts in the country. 

A 2013 Government of Sierra Leone health survey found that only 6.3% of children in rural areas receive an acceptable minimum food supply. According to the “Sierra Leone National Nutrition Survey” of 2017, chronic malnutrition in children, measured by “stunting”, is 31.4% in Bonthe and the district has the highest prevalence of childhood diseases. Malnutrition and diarrhoeal diseases are therefore among the main causes of infant mortality.

It is against this challenging backdrop that the NGO SEND Sierra Leone, with funding from German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and Deutsche Welthungerhilfe (WHH), recently launched the ‘Promotion of Nutrition Sensitive WASH Self-Sufficiency project’ in Bonthe Sherbro Island, specifically targeting 50 very remote communities in Sittia and Dema chiefdoms.

The project’s overall objective is to contribute in improving the nutritional and health status of up to 1,000 households in the Bonthe Sherbro Island through the construction of water supply and sanitation infrastructure in targeted communities; establishment of structures for sustainable community participation; (financial) contributions to the development and maintenance of the WASH sector/institutions; and enabling households’ and communities’ access to improved WASH facilities through a WASH self-supply system.

Sittia and Dema chiefdoms depend on unprotected hand dug wells for drinking water and lack latrines, relying more on open defecation along the beach areas. The communities also have low knowledge on hygiene, nutrition and best sanitation practices. Due to the sandy soil, large number of the communities can only be accessed by motor boat, which is very expensive and in most communities, income is generated through the sale of fish. Agricultural activities also remain poor and at an insignificant scale to be able to provide sufficient food and income for the people. Development activities hardly reach this part of the country due to its riverine ecology, sandy soil and lack of inadequate river transport facilities, thereby limiting business activities.

“The project seeks to help the people of Bonthe District overcome these serious development challenges to be self-reliant, to be able to do things for themselves as a people. Government won’t be able to do everything for every community; government just won’t,” said Mohamed Jalloh, SEND Sierra Leone Project Manager during the project inception meeting with stakeholders from the target communities at the Bonthe Municipal Council Hall early March 2019.

During the meeting the project details, including budget and time lines, were shared with the stakeholders, seeking their reactions and inputs. According to Jalloh, that was to ensure the they understand the project package and to have a stake in it from the start. The stakeholders comprise Paramount Chiefs from the target communities, Councilors, women and youth leaders, representatives from the Health, Agriculture and Water ministries, the District Council, security sector, donors and the implementing partners.

“We want to get the stakeholders from the target communities to be involved every step of the way; to let them know their responsibilities and we work together to achieve the objectives of the project,” continued Jalloh.

According to Jalloh, the project will facilitate the mobilization of communities to participate in the development of WASH facilities through the community WASH self-supply approach. This is a participatory sensitization process in which the communities become aware of their hygiene and sanitation challenges and jointly develop solutions using the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) or the Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) approaches.

By the WASH self-supply approach, he continued, communities will be sensitized on gender, WASH, nutrition, village savings and loan scheme (VSLA), microfinance, business development and how communities can promote self-initiatives to mobilize resources on their own to develop low cost WASH project proposals to a Proposal Evaluation Committee set up by the project. When a community proposal is selected, the Water and Sanitation Promotion (WASAP) Company will be responsible for installations as experts on the self-supply approach to make sure communities develop water, toilets and other sanitary facilities to improve on their WASH status.

“We will recruit and train 100 community multipliers to serve as intermediaries in carrying out community mobilization and awareness raising activities on the project content and approaches in addition to three trained local technicians in each community who will continue to provide WASH services to communities after the project shall have ended,” disclosed Jalloh.

He added that about 50 representatives from the DHMT, DC, the media, Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR), the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS), and community chiefs will be directly involved in the project through evaluation, monitoring and steering activities; plus an indirect target group of 3,000 households (18,000 persons) to be reached through the rollout and replication of the project activities.

Meanwhile, Mayor Sandi said they are happy for the project and commended the NGO for the kind of transparency they have begun to show from the start.

Credit: Development and Economic Journalists Association (DEJA-SL).

Sierra Leone: Agric Minister intensifies roadmap to food security drive

By Shifu Fadda

The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Joseph Ndanema,  has organized a three-day consultative conference that puts together a comprehensive roadmap plan that will be handed over to the Minister today for onward presentation to the Chief Minister tomorrow at State House.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) is one of the constituent Ministries of the Government of the Republic of Sierra Leone that is charged with the growth and development of the Agriculture sector in the country.


Joseph Ndanema, Agric Minister

Held at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Conference Hall, the comprehensive document entails quick winds plan for immediate activities, short-term plan for three to four months, a medium-term plan for about three years, and long-term plan for five years.

Addressing the meeting yesterday (Wednesday 23rd May 2018), Minister Joseph Ndanema said he is impressed about the way the professional staff have carried out the exercise to have a formidable plan that serves as a guide to the ministry to achieve its food security goal.

“We need to manage the various sectors to address food security issues in the country. I am confident that the right thing will be done to help us have a development-oriented Ministry,” he said, and further remarked that his target is for the agriculture ministry to be number one in the country.

Mr. Ndanema pointed out that he took up the challenge to make agriculture services as an engine for growth and his administration will thoroughly look at things that have not been done to make them very active.

“Our major problem, in the country is the staple food rice, which is why I want to have a stronger public-private partnership to make it readily available and at a cheaper price. This is why we are organizing ourselves to achieve food security through improvement of production and productivity,” the Minister said.

He named other areas like developing irrigation systems, improve on crop and animal production, mechanized farming and other development activities to make agriculture deliver the expected results in the country.

The Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Alhassan K. Kondeh said the three days meeting looked at priority areas like governance and research, attractive investment, crops and animal horse boundary; and four groups were separated to look at each of the four areas.

The Ministry seeks to improve agricultural production and productivity in order to achieve food security by providing an enabling environment for farmers and by promoting appropriate research, extension, input delivery and market systems, thereby improving rural incomes, reducing poverty and maintaining the natural environment. To do this, MAFFS formulates and implements appropriate Agricultural Policies and coordinates, designs and monitors agricultural programmes for the development of the agricultural sector.

The Ministry is currently operating within the “New Direction” Agenda of President Julius Maada Bio which is focused on raising the quantity of value-added products in agriculture as this is the effects of reducing food insecurity and poverty in the country. The major Goal is to make agriculture the engine for socio-economic growth and development towards the achievement of food security for all, employment opportunities, income generation and poverty reduction in Sierra Leone with the smallholder farmers being the focus.

The Ministry, under Mr. Ndanema, has prioritized commodity commercialization in order to boost production for consumption so as to reduce food insecurity and create a surplus for sales thereby reducing poverty.


Africa is the only continent with high number of stunted children – says His Majesty King Letsie III

The King of the Kingdom of Lesotho, His Majesty King Letsie lll has called on African leaders to invest in nutrition in order to address the chronic hunger and malnutrition challenges across the Continent. 

His Majesty King Letsie lll

King Letsie who is the current African Union Nutrition Champion made the remarks during a courtesy call on the AU Chairperson H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat.

“Ending malnutrition and giving children the best start in life requires more integration and sustainable investment from different sectors of our society” the Nutrition Champion stated. 

He lamented that “Africa is the only region in the world where the number of stunted children has increased over the past 20 years, hence, providing the urgent need for increasing resources to improve nutrition as a vital ingredient to social development”.

 The king reiterated his commitment and determination to continue advocating for adequate investment for the nutrition sector in Africa.

In his remarks, the AU Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat emphasized that “improving nutrition status is a priority area needing urgent policy attention for accelerating socio-economic development in Africa”. 

He pointed that malnutrition remains prevalent in the majority of African countries and represent a leading threat to the socio-economic development of the continent, hence pledging that “food security and nutrition will remain high on the African Union agenda.”

During the ceremony, H.E. Amira El Fadil, Commissioner for Social Affairs, gave an overview of the role and work of the AU Nutrition Champion and presented the 3-year Work Plan for the Nutrition Champion.

 The work plan aims to advance the implementation of the revised Africa Regional Nutrition Strategy and provides a roadmap that outlines the role of the Commission and other stakeholders in the elimination of hunger and malnutrition in Africa. 

Amongst other things, the Nutrition Champion is expected to promote the AU’s Africa Renewed Initiative for Stunting Elimination in Africa (ARISE) and advocate for increased investment in nutrition which will include private sector engagement in nutrition initiatives, that build on the Cost of Hunger in Africa Studies. 

The Champion will also render support to the AUC Chairperson’s initiative to address nutrition in areas of conflict and with humanitarian needs and support the Commission’s endorsed “Sustainable School Food and Nutrition Initiative” in order to scale up continental school feeding programs in partnership with FAO.

In their determination to eliminate hunger, malnutrition and famine on the continent, African leaders have adopted a number of declarations, strategies and commitments such as the establishment of the African Task Force on Food and Nutrition Development, the Comprehensives African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) under the NEPAD initiatives which committed African Leaders to appropriate 10% of their national budgets to agriculture. 

The Commission also has other initiatives such as Africa Renewed Initiative for Stunting Elimination in Africa (ARISE) which is geared towards having nutrition high on the development agenda of the continent by building awareness and fostering political commitment as well as resources to stunning elimination based on the results generated from the Cost of Hunger in Africa Studies.

Additionally, African Heads of State and Government appointed His Majesty King Letsie III of the Kingdom of Lesotho as AU Nutrition Champion in 2014 and renewed mandate for another two years, which ends in 2019.