Treat agri­cul­ture as busi­ness, says Sierra Leone VP

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Tendai Mu­gabe and Melody Mashaire Harare Bureau

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)

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