By Tamba Borbor
Public Relations Officer
The Agribusiness Development from Organic Resources (ADORE) Project implemented by Welthungerhilfe (WHH) and funded by the European Union (EU), under the Boosting Agriculture and Food Security (BAFS) portfolio, has received very satisfactory rating from a multi-sectoral Monitoring Team.
The Team comprising officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), National Authorising Office (NAO), Produce Monitoring Board (PMB), Boosting Agriculture and Food Security (BAFS), and Project Coordinating Unit (PCU) commenced their visit by having an update session on Tuesday 4th October 2022, with the management of ADORE Project on progress made in the implementation of activities set out in the project document.
Speaking at the opening session held at the WHH Compound in Kenema City, the Head of ADORE Project- George Muigai, welcomed the visiting Project Monitoring Team and highlighted the notable progress made in the general implementation efforts of the project.
He stated that one of the objectives of the project is to establish and commence production of chocolate, which would be the first in Sierra Leone.
“We are working on providing the enabling environment for organic agriculture in Sierra Leone, while also focusing on organic cocoa value chain addition,” George Muigai stated; adding that the outcomes of the project are: a growing domestic cocoa agro-industry that generates social, environmental and economic returns; ensure that value chain collaboration drives optimized processes in primary and secondary processing, logistics and marketing of Sierra Leone’s cocoa beans; Liquor and premium chocolate, in addition to creating the enabling policy environment that boosts sector performance and effectiveness along the cocoa value chains.
George Muigai disclosed that the project directly works with smallholder producers, aggregators, private sectors, the Government, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) among others; adding that the high-level annual monitoring team visit was designed by the project to monitor progress made so far to make corrections, if needed, and also inspect the equipment installed.
“…And this also enables us to know if the project is implemented as designed,” the ADORE Head of project said; adding “the ADORE Project will help bolster the country’s marketing community, as it will target the highest markets like the European Union (EU) and American Markets and showcase the unique chocolates produced from our organic cocoa. This will also increase the Reputation of Sierra Leonean Cocoa in the world Market.”
Regarding sustainability of the project, George Muigai stated that there is already an existing strategic plan after the project phases out at the end of 2023; informing that the project works with 3,800 farmers to ensure continuous supply of cocoa to the 600 tonnes capacity factory. It is also expected that 2,000 tonnes of cocoa would be processed annually.
“We are also planning to increase the number of farmers so that they can satisfy the factory and sell the remaining to other cocoa-buying agents,” George informed; disclosing that the project plans to achieve sustainable and certified cocoa production in the country, which would meet International quality to strongly compete with other cocoa-producing countries like Ivory Coast, Ghana etc. to position and rebrand Sierra Leone cocoa to the entire world to ensure farmers get premium prices.
He urged all farmers to maintain and implement what they have learnt from the various trainings provided under the ADORE project.
“They should stick to their passion, as there is no other job that can pay more than agriculture when it is done in the right way. The Government and its partners should also invest more in Agriculture,” George Muigai appealed.
The Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) – Dr. Mohamed Ajuba Sheriff, said that their visit is to review and showcase all that WHH spelled out in the project document for the good of the community, and assess how much have been done in that direction.
He maintained that on their part, they are very satisfied with what they have seen so far. Dr. Sheriff noted that the WHH is working in line with what is written in the project document, as no other organization or project has been able to compete with them in that direction.
Dr. Sheriff stressed that his Ministry and partners are very proud of Welthungerhilfe for such a project, as the people in the East of the country rely solely on Cocoa production and that the project will add more value to their products.
“This cocoa value chain is done in stages. During each stage like the processing, warehousing, manufacturing etc., a lot of people will be employed, thereby increasing the employment rate in the country. We would be able to manufacture and eat our own chocolate produced from our organic cocoa instead of buying imported ones. The surplus can also be sold to other countries and such will increase the foreign exchange reserve,” Dr. Sheriff assured.
The MAF Director-General reaffirmed that as a Government, they are going to thoroughly monitor the entire project to make sure the right thing is done, so that when WHH folds up in the near future, there will be a sustainable structure to continue the project; adding that as a Government, they are here to ensure that happens.
In addition, when the project ends, the focus will be mainly on business activities to ensure the product is found in every corner of the country to bolster the economy.
He urged the farmers to grab this life-changing opportunity, follow the trainings offered and continue to do more farming and produce different quality organic cocoa beans.
Executive Chairman of Produce Monitoring Board (PMB), Dr. James Vibbi, stated that it is part of their mandate as an institution to monitor and inspect projects of such nature that involves cocoa production. He acknowledged that it is a significant progress for WHH to start chocolate production, which is a first in the country.
He furthered that the board is in charge of creating a marketing space and opportunity for producers of cocoa, and monitor farmers from the farm gates to harvest; bargain and exportation in addition to raising revenue for Government out of Agricultural products.
“We are here on a monitoring visit and from what we have seen so far, it is very encouraging. We have visited the Factory Site and some of the equipment, the storage facility, which is about 500tonnes and the biggest in the country for now. This shows that WHH is committed to delivering what they promised. The Government is very interested in these kinds of investments. This will add to the employment volume in the country,” Dr. Vibbi stated.
He went on to say that “From the part of the Produce Monitoring Board, we are satisfied with what we have seen here and are hoping that they complete the work and do the necessary things so that the Chocolate Factory will start within the expected timeframe.”
The farmers, he furthered, would be motivated to see their local produce being transformed into a finished product, which will increase the foreign exchange revenue of Sierra Leone and boost the economy.
Andrew E. Tucker, Head of Rural Development and Governance at the National Authorising Office (NAO), expressed great satisfaction with progress made by ADORE Project in implementing various activities set out in the project log frame, and urged the management to take note of the basic issues identified going forward.
He noted that the ADORE project has significantly impressed them, as compared to others under the BAFS portfolio, funded by the European Union (EU).
Yayah Mansaray, the Focal Person in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), also expressed similar opinion regarding the tremendous work done by WHH in the overall implementation of the ADORE project.
The Monitoring Team visited the Chocolate Factory and Moawoma Organic Cocoa Warehouse in Kenema on the first day of the visit on Tuesday 4th October 2022. On Wednesday 5thOctober, the Team visited Kpetema and Sembehun communities in Kenema District, where they met with members of the Village Savings Loan Association (VSLA) and Farmer-Based Organisations, while also inspecting Drying and Fermentation Facilities built by WHH and handed over to Moawoma Farmers’ Cooperative.
On Thursday 6th October 2022, the Team visited Pelewahun community in the Kailahun District, where they also met with VSLA and FBO farmers and inspected the Cocoa drying and buying facility operated by Lizard Earth.
On Friday 7th October 2022, a debriefing and feedback session was held at the WHH Compound in Kenema City, where the visiting Monitoring Team members made several recommendations to further improve on the remaining implementation of activities under the ADORE project.