The Cassava Value Chain Field Day event was organized by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa (SARD-SC) in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI) of the Ministry of Agriculture.
The Minister of Agriculture, Professor Monty Jones commended IITA and SLARI for taking the lead in promoting cassava, which is the second staple food in Sierra Leone. He said Sierra Leoneans must promote the consumption of local food stuffs that are highly proteinous. "We need to promote improved varieties of cassava to realize the present effort in cassava cultivation. Farmers must work hard to add value on cassava to increase their income," he said, and added that there us prosperity in farming if only farmers are committed to their work to increase productivity and value addition. "We must be serious about the value chain approach to commercialize agriculture," he noted. The Minister called for need to have an out grower scheme to boost production and productivity. He admonished participants to make good use if the knowledge gained so that their communities and the nation will benefit from them.
IITA’s Country Representative, Dr. James B.A. Whyte said they are working directly with SLARI and the Crop Division in the Ministry of Agriculture to develop cassava varieties and expansion. “We should see cassava as an industrial tree stock,” he said, and noted that the project has a youth component that deals with cassava cultivation, process and other value addition services. Dr. Whyte encouraged participants to implement the skills learnt for the development of the nation.
IITA’s Commodity Specialist, Dr. Marie O. Yomeni said the project has four components, which are: developing new technologies, dissemination of all technologies developed, capacity building and efficient management of the project under the cassava component. So far, she said ten varieties of cassava have been released to farmers, and that they are also promoting mechanization on production and processing.
Dr. Joseph Kargbo of SLARI said it took over forty years to research on the new cassava varieties. “We should focus on cassava production to produce wheat flour to earn us foreign exchange,” he advised, noting further that the country should concentrate on local production rather than spending over $200million to import agricultural goods.
Dr. Kargbo called on Scientist to do more to link livestock products with cassava so that farmers get more income, because, as he put it, ‘a single input of cassava earns you seven more folds’.
Other speakers include Paramount Chief Kandeh Finoh III, Madam Zainab Kanu of the Ministry of Trade, Mr. Max Davies of the Presidential Post-Ebola Recovery Delivery Team, Dr. Joseph Tholley of the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Makeni, Ismail Bangura representing the Implementing Partners, and Mr. OLu John of the Farmers’ Federation. They spoke highly of the project, which they described as a novelty for poverty reduction in Sierra Leone.
The event was chaired by the Deputy Director General in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Sheku Tejan Kamara.