By Mariama B. Bah

National Council for Civic Education and Development (NaCCED), the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, last Tuesday 16 February organized a workshop on policy shift at the Ministry of Agriculture Conference Hall in Freetown.

Mohamed A. Sheriff, Deputy Director Planning, Evaluation, Monitoring and Statistics Division said that the policy shift is all about changing strategy, noting that they want to change their strategy that they would increase production and productivity effectively and efficiently.

He noted that they have three shifts which includes mechanization, input delivery services through input voucher system and Agricultural financing.

He explained that the first policy shift deals with mechanization and that they have been providing machines like power tillers, tractors, harvesters to farmers through farming groups, farming population, and master-farmers among others.

He mentioned that before this time, it has not proven productive because there were lots of challenges in terms of ownership, efficient use of machines, repair of the machines, so for that reason, they did not actually get their desired result but now they have decided to leave all of that and adopt a New strategy which is the policy shift.

He noted that government has procured four hundred and ten machines (410) for MAF and they were going to put at least one machine in every district for farming purposes.

He said that these machines were not going to be owned by individuals, group or master farmers or prominent people in the society and farming communities but it’s belongs to everyone so that they can get access to those machines.

He explained that the government will not do it directly but through service providers, and these service providers will provide services that are required to operate the machinery for the farmers.

He explained that before now they decided to be delivering input such as seeds and fertilizers to farmers but that over the period it has not be proven well because there are lots of problems in distributing seeds and fertilizer to farmers.

He added that this time around they are going to work with input dealers and these Agro input dealers have their shops, and they are the private sector in order encourage investment by the private sector in agriculture for them to be able attain food security like what is happening in other countries.

He explained that for them to achieve that they need to rely on the private sector not the government because the government will only create the enabling environment.

He pointed out that what they have been doing in terms of agricultural financing is that they have been creating micro credit, encouraging the commercial banks for farmers to access to credit loans so that they will pay for their production and productive, labour, transport among others.

He explained that there have been lots of challenges in the commercial banks because of the interest rate. The banks he said deal with two digits and MAF will say no, because for Agricultural purposes it has to be one digit and that has been difficult for them and the farmers as well.

He noted that they have done a lot of sensitization, policy dialogue and they have introduced the shift to the farmers and that they are happy about the new policy shift.

He said the input voucher platform is in the digital system so that developers will express their interest and they will buy the bid and they will evaluate that on that in order to award the contract.

He added that they have identified input dealers over the period who have been supplying fertilizer and seeds in the country, noting that there are potential input dealers, potential people who can change their business and go into Agro business.

Chairperson of the National Council of Civic Education and Development, Kalilu Tutangi said the reason why they organized such program is to develop messaging on the policy Shift.