Executive Director of SLeSCA, Dr. Robert Chakanda, who has embarked on a field tour to various provincial areas including Bonglo village, Port Loko district, in order to identify seed multipliers from the private agricultural sector, in a bid to see how the Government, through SLeSCA, can upgrade seed production for various varieties of consumable products, including the staple food (rice), thereby enhancing the production of more quality products, with a view to achieving food sufficiency in the country.
Among the areas visited as his first stop were Mambolo in the Kambia District, Rhombe in Port Loko district and the Rokupr Rice Research Station. Speaking during his visits, Dr. Chakanda encouraged seed scientists and agriculturists at the station to stay focused and use the knowledge gained to provide better seeds for better yields. He further disclosed that the visit is to identify seed developers and multipliers and build a formidable seed generation unit that will stand the test of time and bring about the production of quality products. He stressed that to achieve food sufficiency, focus should be on the quality of seeds. Seed, he maintained is the bedrock of food security. Bad crop production, which has been the order of the day in most agricultural setting in the country, he furthered, is as a result of the quality of the seed. Everything, he went on, depends on the quality of the seed.
The Executive Director said that it is the desire of the President to ensure that food sufficiency is achieved in the country and in this regard, his appointment was a timely one, considering the fact that he had worked on seed across Africa and in Asia on seed for over 30 years and has an impressive record of progress rate in this sector. Dr. Chakanda reminisced his time at the Rokupr Rice Research Station, where he worked for several years, stating that the facility had all that was needed to ensure the development of agriculture in the country. He added that Rokupr was the hub for the development of agriculture then, but lamented that those experts had gone to seek greener pastures. He however admonished agriculturists to do their best to ensure that the sector reflects their commitment to the development of the sector. He added that being the head of this institution does not mean one should be always in the office, it had to do with field work and they should be prepared to go to the field and further let the public know what they are doing in that sector.
Dr Chakanda further disclosed that the seed multiplication system in the country is in a rather disjointed manner, with all parties engaged in separate seed processing programs. His actions as a seed expert is to ensure that all the various individual entities are brought under one umbrella for the development of quality seeds for better yield. As rice is the staple food in the country, he said that his focus is on the development of quality rice seeds that will be resistant to pests and other climate change issues, so as to provide better seeds and improve on the yield, which will eventually result in food sufficiency. This goal, he added, is achievable if the right thing is done. Dr. Chakanda also visited other seed and agricultural centres in Port Loko, Mange etc.
At the Verdict Mange Bureh Farm limited, a rice seed multiplication farm at Mange Bureh, Port Loko district, its boss noted that the Le 1 billion loan to private and local farming groups from the bank of Sierra Leone is a big boost to local farmers and a strong contribution to food sufficiency, as they are already in possession of several new varieties, which, according to him, are the right seeds not only for Sierra Leone, but West Africa as a whole, because the seeds they are producing will yield a harvest of up to 7 tons per hectare compared to previous yield of 1.6 tons per hectare by local farmers.
Earlier in Kambia, the District Crop Officer, Brima Kargbo, welcomed the new Executive Director of SLeSCA and promised to engage farmers and agriculturists including seed producers and vendors, among others, so as to establish a cordial working relationship.
Dr. Chakanda’s visit is also a way to help these private and local agriculturists produce more and complement the effort of the Government in the fight for food sufficiency in the country.
By Edwina Sia Janga