Agriculture is the largest sector of the economy in Sierra Leone, employing over 65 per cent of the labour force. Although the country has enormous agricultural resource potential, there are still many communities that have inadequate access to food. To compound this, an insufficient amount of large-scale holdings, limited market access, inadequate operational funds and lack of agricultural expertise have all hindered further agricultural development. (http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4700e/i4700e08.pdf)
Towards a Solution
The China-Sierra Leone Food Project has taken on this challenge and is working to combat poverty and hunger by transferring sustainable farming techniques and inclusive agricultural value chains to the grass-roots level in Sierra Leone, with expansion to other least developed countries. The project is part of the much larger FAO- China South-South Cooperation Programme. It promotes the transfer of agricultural techniques at the grass-roots level to enrich agricultural production via the exchange of experts and technicians from China to developing countries.
A team of Chinese experts and technicians works with national and local governments to increase the performance of the agricultural sector, improve irrigation systems and increase rice, field crop, vegetable and agroforestry yields. The experts and beneficiaries collaborate by sharing resources and techniques. Since its inception, the project has helped to introduce new technologies, exchange best practices, and share knowledge and experiences in a number of areas such as 68 new agricultural techniques, 56 new crop varieties and 35 types of equipment and tools to help to boost production. Examples include: (a) introducing virus-free potato planting technologies from China to the mountain regions along with demonstrations on potato planting methods; (b) improving livestock farming by introducing the production of corn as animal feed, which has led to farmers’ increased income; (c) raising rice yield from 0.9 to 2.1 tonnes per hectare by using a Chinese hybrid rice variety along with animal waste fertilizer; and (d) increasing the yearly rate of vegetable cultivation so that farmers can plant three crops of vegetables per year and sell the harvest to generate additional income.
The initiative’s model is demand-driven and offers an entire package of services to address a country’s needs, from assessments to skills and from the introduction of machinery to gauging impact. The project approach includes a strong capacity development component that ensures the assimilation and long-term sustainability of the new techniques and expertise provided that adequate financial resources are made available. Regular contact is maintained between Chinese experts and beneficiaries, and the knowledge transferred through the programme has been effectively adopted at the local level, supporting national and household food security as well as agricultural intensification and diversification. To build on the achievements made to date, more partnerships and increased investment in agriculture are required. Given adequate resources, the technologies and varieties introduced through the scheme could be applied on a much larger scale.
Farmers and local producers have effectively adopted the new skills and techniques, which has led to greater food security and intensified, diversified farming and yields. China and FAO have begun working on a second phase of the umbrella programme. The project will apply lessons learned and the adoption of good practices in countries where the demand matches the skills and technologies that China has to offer.
The main project partners include FAO, Sierra Leone and China, which provide financial and technical backing.
Sustainable Development Goal targets: 2.3, 2.4
Countries / territories involved: Sierra Leone (similar projects in other African countries)
Supported by: Government of China, FAO (FAO-China South-South Trust Fund)
Implementing entities: China, FAO
Project status: Ongoing
Project period: 2008 to present
URL of practice: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4700e/i4700e08.pdf
Name: Mr. Zhongwei Liu, Coordinator, FAO/China SSC Programme, South-South Cooperation (SSC) Team, FAO