The end –of- project international conference on cassava value chain held from 28-30 June 2017 in Sierra Leone, brought to the front burner the valuable contribution the SARD-SC project has made to food security in target countries; Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Zambia and DR Congo. These contributions were highlighted as part of the project’s successes, experiences and lessons learnt in the target countries since the inception of the project through various presentations and discourse to an audience of eminent government personalities, representatives of World Vision, FAO, scientists, cassava actors and farmers. The Sierra Leone government was ably represented by Professor Monty Jones, the Minister of Agriculture and forestry and Food security, Mr. Francis Sankoh, Director General of Ministry of Agriculture and Dr. Joseph Kargbo, Director Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute and other important personalities.
Dr. Marie Yomeni, the SARD-SC cassava Commodity Specialist in Sierra Leone welcomed the guests to the conference , informing them of IITA valuable contributions to improving food security in Zambia, Sierra Leone, Dr. Congo, and Tanzania by partnering with respective national programs to implement the project. She said the project’s contribution to food security has been achieved through technological development, dissemination and building capacity of local farmers in agriculture and value addition.
Dr. Chrys Akem, SARD-SC project Coordinator, expressed his appreciation to the AFDB for funding the project that “has helped to reduce poverty and malnutrition levels in target countries.” He commended the collaborating institutions for their commitment to financial reporting and collegiality. For the need o curtail the ever increasing import bill of food into the continent, Dr. Alfred Dixion, Director, Development and Delivery IITA, urged the participants to ensure their countries embrace agriculture for food security ,adding that ‘Africa has ample arable land to produce its own food. He enjoined African governments to involve youth in agriculture by replacing present aging farmers who still practice subsistence farming.
To high light the achievements of the project in target countries, a lot of presentations were made by the project cassava specialist and other country representatives such as Dr. Veronica Uzokwe, Dr. Pheneas Ntawurutunga and others. Dr. Yomeni’s presentation was titled Cassava Contribution to food and Nutrition security: Achievements and Lesson Learned” from which she enumerated the overall achievements of the project among others as thus: Ten varieties of cassava have been released; six bio- fortified varieties identified in Zambia, innovation platforms established in all countries for sustainable dissemination and adoption of technology; 517 demonstration trails done across the countries, 7199 farmers trained on different cassava value chain aspects; 75 cassava products were developed in the four project countries, four processing centers developed in four countries, 17 students trained:8 PhDs, I MPhil, 8 MScs, youth groups strengthened, 45.6% females and nine infrastructure developed.
In his remarks , the special guest of honour, Professor Monty Jones, the country ‘s Minister of Agriculture, commended IITA for contributing to the development of agriculture in Sierra Leone and the private sector for contributing to producing and promoting other crops. He added that it was time for the continent to mechanize agriculture to enhance food security and involve youth as a way of replacing the present aging farmers who still practice subsistence farming. He informed the audience that he would ensure a policy of incorporating 10% HCQF into wheat for baking confectionery is enforced in Sierra Leone. Mr. Francis Sankoh, the DG of Sierra Leone Agricultural Institute (SLARI) commended IITA’s role in research for Agricultural development and for transforming agriculture in the country through value addition to cassava and developing the capacity of farmers and women processors.
The project was commended by some of the participants for lifting many people out of poverty through empowering the women on value addition to cassava crops. Validating the out –of- poverty impact of the project, Mr. Ahmed Nanoh, of the Sierra Leone Chamber of Agric- Business Development, gave examples of people who make money by processing cassava and selling ready to eat fufu.
The cassava international conference was lauded as a successful outing, with the caliber of participants such as policy makers, and government officials, presenting an opportunity for project’s countries to showcase their achievements through various presentations by scientists and cassava actors from all walks of life.
While thanking the participants for attending the conference, Dr. Akem expressed his delight for the quality of their participation and the depth of intellectual discourse on cassava. Mr. Nanoh presented the end of project document to DG Sankoh who in turn thanked the participants and IITA/SARD-SC project for its impactful role in enhancing food security in Sierra Leone.