The World Bank, in Partnership With the Government of Sierra Leone Through the Ministry of Finance, Has Started the Pilot Operational Communication Endeavour to Showcase Results of the Projects in the World Bank Country Portfolio. the Exercise Commenced Last Week With Visits to Several Projects Sites Under the Rural and Private Sector Development Project (rpsdp) and the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (waapp) in Kambia and Port Loko in Northern Sierra Leone and in Kono in the East.
The initiative, dubbed "Result for the People", comes on the back of a mutual desire by the government and the World Bank to use communication as a mechanism to enhance more effective implementation by telling the stories of success and challenges of the projects.
In Kambia, the team looked at WAAPP's intervention to resuscitate and reposition the Sierra Leone Research Institute (SLARI) at Rokupr which was destroyed during the 11-year civil war. The project has started the rehabilitation of staff quarters, three of which have already been completed. The Institute, according to the Research Coordinator Dr. Marteens, currently holds about 40 researchers, most of whom are junior researchers undergoing training on new farming technologies. Dr. Marteens also confirmed that the project has a US$10m research component under the (WAAPP) to establish a state of the art laboratory which will effectively reinstate the center to its status as the hub for rice research in West Africa.
The project also provided the institute with a "speed Boat" to facilitate the researchers' movement in the riverine areas. Already the Institute has introduced the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) and herbicides as new farming methods. The team looked at some of the trial farms (innovation platforms), the seeds and the storage facilities and spoke to some of the beneficiaries who appear to be optimistic about bumper harvests as a result of the innovations.
Also in Kambia, the team visited the RPSDP feeder road construction site, a 2.2 kilometer including a 30-meter long bridge that connects over 22 villages with a population of over 15,000 people in the farming communities of Rothemne and Gbokamario chiefdoms. The bridge runs across a 9-meter deep waterway with high currents. The precariousness of this crossing point on shaky wooden material, which the villagers labour year-in and year-out to construct, has seriously hampered the movement of the farmers and the transportation of their agricultural produce.
Over a 10-year period, more than 18 people mostly children and women have drowned in this deep strip of water. 39 year-old Ibrahim Sorie Kamara lost two of his children on the same day. They were 5-year old each from his two wives. Boats have also capsized in the river and destroyed millions of leones worth of labour intensive farmed produce.
The construction of the bridge therefore will constitute a complete rescue for the people of these communities as it will connect farmers and provide them easy access to the international market just about 25 kilometers away in Kambia town, which is a border town to Guinea. It will also provide children and women easy access to school and health facilities, which are on the other side of the river.
A 64-year-old farmer, Pa Komrabai, who is married to three wives with 17 children and part of whose farm has been taken to construct the bridge, said "we happily gave up our land free of charge to demonstrate our appreciation of this assistance".
The Chairman of the Kambia District Council, Sheik A. Sankoh, said about 39.1 kilometers of feeder roads and several market stores have been completed in his district under the RPSDP. On the market's stores however, Mr. Sankoh lamented the ability of the Council to fulfil their own part of the bargain of providing the matching grants of 25%, which has resulted in the contractor holding on to the keys. The Chairman also explained that Council is logistically constrained in effectively monitoring projects, especially those in hard-to-reach areas, and therefore looks forward to assistance in the form of a vehicle.
In Lunsar, Port Loko District, the team met with a Famer Based Organization (FBO) and looked at their rice processing facility. The operator of the mill, 16-year-old Abdul Fornah, who had dropped out of school because of lack of support, is now hopeful to be enrolled in a technical vocational institute with support from the organisation. According to Fatmata Conteh, the Chairlady of the Forode Barker FBO, before the intervention of the RPSDP, it used to take about 20 people to process a bushel of rice in 2 to 3 hours but now it takes only 30 minutes by one machine. However, the original machine provided to this group had broken down but they have managed to raise some money from the old machine to make some initial payment for a replacement. Serving other farms in their community, they hope to save enough to pay up.
Pete Kaindaneh, the Project Coordinator, said there are 84 of such facilities across the country provided under the Rural Private Sector Development Project.
Kono, Eastern Sierra Leone, is largely known for its diamonds but the District Council Chair informed the team that out of the 14 chiefdoms, only 6 are involved in agriculture. He said even these 6 chiefdoms are not exclusively diamond mining areas; some sections are involved with agriculture. In fact, because of the capital intensive kimberlite method of mining that now prevails, the people are no longer able to afford diamond mining and are now reclaiming their diamond plots for agriculture. In addition to rice and cassava, Kono is also producing cash crops like cocoa, and the RPSDP is supporting farmers with seeds, new skills, processing facilities; organizing them into cooperatives and create a market for their produce. The Kasiatema Cocoa Farmers Cooperative is one of three cooperatives that have been organized into the Kayeigorma Company Limited and who have been linked to business partners in Japan and Switzerland.
Lamin Nbogba, Field Operations Officer of the company said: "The company is now on fair trade certification, produces grade A cocoa and making steady progress in production. In 2012, the company produced 90 tons, 120 tons in 2013 and 210 in 2013." Tamba Joe, Master Farmer from Thombu village in the Sowa Chiefdom, said: "With the intervention of the RPSDP, we are assured of a ready market and so we are enthused to worker harder to satisfy the demand of our buyers." Tamba Joe was awarded a motorbike by the company for emerging as the highest producer of cocoa in his chiefdom. This is an incentive to the farmers to produce more. Another incentive is the stability in the price of cocoa, if anything it has been increasing in the last three years.
73-year-old Kama Saffa, who is married to five wives with 27 children said: "Now I am more comfortable with my family and I am conveniently able to pay the university fees for two of my children." But the biggest challenge for the Kono farmers is access to markets; getting their produce to the centers is a big huddle because of the deplorable road networks in the district. The RPSDP has completed 51 kilometers in the district and the government has restarted work on the trunk road leading to Kono from Makeni in the North. The project also constructed a new and bigger store for the farmers.
The Country Manager was impressed with the project interventions and implementation but noted that throughout the visits, the role of the local government stands out as very crucial in monitoring the projects and ensuring services are delivered to the people.
Led by the World Bank Country Manager, the team included the FAO Country Representative, the Projects Coordinator, World Bank Senior Communications Officer for Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia, World Bank Operations Officer for Human Development, Communications Specialists World Bank Country Office, WAAPP/RPSDP, Ministry of Agriculture and a team of 9 journalists from the print and electronic media. The project visits were reported in real time through social media.