Treat agriculture as business, says Sierra Leone VP
TREATING agriculture as a business is a sure way for Zimbabwe and other African countries to transform their economies and move away from being dependent, Sierra Leone Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh said yesterday.
He said farmers’ mindset needed to be changed so that they began to look at agriculture as a business venture.
VP Foh who stood in for his President Ernest Bai Koroma at the official opening of the 106th edition of the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show in Harare yesterday, said African governments should also adapt to mechanised farming to enhance productivity.
He said the turnout at the show was a testimony of a country determined to manage its affairs as a sovereign State.
“We also have to change the mindset of our people and insist that agriculture is a business venture,” he said.
“In Sierra Leone, we have adopted small holder commercialisation as a deliberate strategy to enhance the welfare and livelihoods of our farmers.
“Through technology, we can improve agricultural productivity in our continent. I am sure this is why our brother His Excellency President Robert Gabriel Mugabe, invited his brother Ernest Bai Koroma President of Sierra Leone to set the stage for knowledge exchange. There is a lot that we need to do together to ensure food security for our citizens by using technology to improve soil fertility, integrate water capture from rain fall to irrigation by moving away from traditional labour intensive to mechanised farming by promoting agro processes and by encouraging life skills investment in the agriculture sector.
“It is going to take some time. We must press on to achieve our aspiration of eradicating hunger in Africa.”
VP Foh said Africans should exchange knowledge on agriculture over and above funding of research in agricultural activities.
“It is time for us Africans to share amongst us the knowledge about our ecology, about our common vegetation and soil condition,” he said.
“I have leant that your farms sizes are most larger than ours and your produce is more easily converted into finished goods. This is the way to go. We must continue to support agricultural research to improve on the crops that we grow and to expand on our productivity per hectare.
“I am also confident that Sierra Leone being pioneer of the new rice for Africa and being on the front in agricultural research across the world this is a great idea. We are investing in extensions services, fertiliser and other inputs to our farmers. We are also addressing the issue of access to finance by the creation of an apex bank for agriculture and we are doing this for many good reasons.”
Said VP Foh: “Ours has been an economy driven largely by mineral exports notably iron ore. As we have learnt that we can no longer depend on minerals alone, the fall of prices on world market of mineral commodities and that deadly Ebola outbreak strangled the Sierra Leone economy. During these difficult times, agriculture showed practical signs of resilience and we are convinced more than ever that agriculture must be the mainstay of our economy.
“I am confident that through concerted efforts during the 12 to 24 months of our Ebola recovery period, we will see the doubling of production in rice and the other key crops and in the process, we have an estimated 10 000 jobs for our youths.”
VP Foh also spoke to journalists after touring a number of stands and said: “You are showing the world that Zimbabwe is growing in agriculture value addition. Any day, any hour from now you can grow into export business on a large scale. We have seen quite a lot, we have come from afar and we have honoured the invitation by Statesman President Robert Mugabe sent to his brother president of our Republic.
“We have leant a lot of experiences from what we have seen. The variety of agricultural products and the value addition shows that you are growing. Zimbabwe is growing. In our country we had a civil war and Ebola recently which brought our economy to its knees. So our government is giving out to various sectors of our country, more so to the agricultural sector. Because most of our people are in the informal sector and they contribute so much to what we produce, only agriculture is holding us together. We have learnt quite a lot. Our two countries must get into deeper collaboration so that we get to exchange ideas.”
VP Foh presented awards to best winners of this year’s agricultural show.
Among the companies and organisations that walked away with top prizes were Alpha Omega Dairy, Premier Services Medical Aid Society, Telone, Seed Co and the Zimbabwe Republic Police, among others.
President Mugabe (right) with Sierra Leone Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh at the Harare Agricultural Show before prizes presentation yesterday. — (Picture by John Manzongo)