Recent government announcements of investment in agriculture signal the latest step in rebuilding the national economy after an 11 year-long civil war which ended in 2002. As part of the latest round of government coordinated investment in the sector, farmers are being encouraged to plant crops including rice and cassava through the government’s program, which has so far distributed $28 million.
Much of this work is supported by two World Bank agriculture grants worth $42 million to Sierra Leone, and as investment increases, future conflict between local farmers and foreign investors seem likely. Currently, small-scale farmers are using 12 percent of the country’s arable land, leaving room for the larger companies the government hopes to lure.
Already, Geneva-based Addax & Oryx Group Ltd.’s local subsidiary, Addax Bioenergy began a 10,000-hectare sugar-cane plantation in Makeni, 137 kilometres east of Freetown, and expect to begin producing ethanol by 2013.
How are these projects going to be integrated into local agriculture and business systems? Addax has not confirmed exactly for whom it will be refining petroleum, but it will likely be exported to regional markets.
Back in eastern Congo, CADS has been most interested in investing in local agricultural cooperatives, as they seem an important step in stabilising local economies following protracted conflict.
Cocoa Cooperatives Hold the Key to Reviving the Sector
Cocoa producers in three of Sierra Leone’s eastern districts – Kailahun, Kenema and Kono – have established independent cooperatives to pool cocoa beans for export, which helps to raise their incomes and improves their chances of competing with larger companies. Total membership is nearly 13,000 people and is growing.
According to Charles Annor Frempong, one of the project leaders, “the cooperative network generates a sense of ownership among indigenous cocoa farmers, helps increase price consciousness and generates competition with private companies that leads to higher prices.”
COOPRAMA is listening and looking forward to building on its existing structure to share in the success of Sierra Leone’s burgeoning cooperative movement.
And finally, I couldn’t resist including a great little cartoon from Polyp.