SIERRA LEONE – The government of Sierra Leone has signed a financing agreement with the international Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) worth US$11.8 million for the implementation of the Agriculture Value Chain Development project.

The agreement signed by the ministry of finance seeks to finance the six year project aimed at promoting agri-business activities for smallholder farmers in the country.

Jacob Jusu Saffa, Minister of Finance, said the project has three components, including agriculture market development and climate resilience and smart agricultural production, reports Premier Media.

Mr Saffa further said that the project will benefit 34,000 smallholder farmers across the country especially in regions with potential for cocoa, palm oil and rice production.

According to the finance minister, 50% of the fund will be granted to farmers while the remaining proportion will be channelled to farmers as soft loans as the agreement awaits ratification by the cabinet and parliament.

“The primary targeted group will be smallholder to producers to produce cocoa, oil palm and rice.

Additionally, the project will target farmer based organized institutions such as agribusiness centres, as well as buyers/importers,” he stated.

He assured IFAD of the government’s determination and commitment in ensuring that the resources provided for the project were used for the intended purpose.

IFAD Country Programme Officer, Patrick Jefferson Bao, added that agricultural development with a focus on the value chain remain key to the country’s economic development.

“We are pleased that the agriculture value chain development project is aligned with the government development priorities and agenda,” he said.

Additionally, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Joseph J. Ndanema noted that the project is pivotal in enhancing rice production as well as cashe nuts among other perennial crops.

“This is a project we have designed to address the issues of productivity and adequate rice production.

60% of the project is going towards rice and the other going for food crops like cocoa, coffee and cashew,” he said.

The project will also focus on improving guidance, food security and high resilience for smallholder farmers.

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