In Sierra Leone, government partners, FAO and IFAD have established Agricultural Business Centres (ABCs), providing smallholder farmers with access to training, equipment and storage. Since 2010, P4P has linked the ABCs to WFP’s demand for quality crops, providing smallholders with an incentive to invest in production and taking advantage of capacity development opportunities.
Agricultural production in Sierra Leone is currently recovering from the decline caused by a decade-long war, with about two-thirds of the population dependent upon subsistence farming for their livelihoods. These smallholder farmers have limited access to the resources necessary to effectively aggregate and market quality crops, including storage facilities and training in business and best agricultural practices.
The P4P pilot has tested innovative methods of supporting smallholders by responding to context-specific challenges in 20 countries. In Sierra Leone, working with the ABCs has proven to be particularly effective. Within the ABCs, smallholders can purchase inputs, hire equipment, undergo training and access services such as processing, storage and group marketing. The agro-centres are governed by farmers’ organizations, with support from FAO, IFAD and government agencies. This fosters ownership of the ABCs, which is an important step towards sustainability. To date, 193 ABCs have been established.
In Sierra Leone, IFAD, FAO and WFP collaborate with the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAFSP) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) to implement the government’s Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP). The SCP aims to increase smallholder farmers’ capacities and improve their ability to aggregate and market quality crops collectively to formal markets. Under the SCP, smallholders are grouped into farmers’ organizations, and supported with training in agricultural production and collective marketing. Several organizations then work together within an ABC to process and store crops.
WFP as a source of assured demand
P4P facilitates the link between the ABCs and WFP demand, providing farmers’ organizations with an incentive to improve the commercialization of staple crops such as rice or pigeon peas, as well as practical experience selling to an institutional buyer. P4P also provides smallholders with training in post-harvest handling and quality control, assisting them to produce high quality commodities. This should prepare smallholders to ultimately access commercial markets beyond WFP on an increasingly competitive basis.
Mariama Koroma, the chairwoman of Holima Agricultural Business Centre, says: “I have gone through a lot of training orchestrated by FAO, World Vision, WFP and others, so I have acquired a wealth of knowledge and experience in governance and management. That is why we don’t have problems in our farmers’ organization. I am confident that I can comfortably manage this Agricultural Business Centre.”
Progress made but challenges remain
Local food prices in Sierra Leone are volatile and often higher than the international price of the same commodity, notably for rice. Because WFP’s procurement policy obligates the organization to buy maximum quantities of food at no more than the import parity price, procurement from smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone has been limited. Despite these challenges, in total, WFP has procured some 1,100 metric tons of food commodities from smallholder farmers’ organizations in Sierra Leone since 2009. Of this, four ABCs have contracted with WFP to date, selling a total of 140 metric tons of rice, 15 metric tons of pigeon peas and 5 metric tons of gari, a form of processed cassava. These crops are then distributed in WFP’s School Meals and Food for Assets programmes.
In 2013, a joint assessment was carried out by the Programme Advisory Group (PAG), GAFSP, FAO and P4P to evaluate the ABCs in terms of their skills and capacity. As a result of this evaluation, 21 ABCs were identified as potential WFP suppliers. Though procurement by WFP has been limited, smallholders have been effectively prepared to produce and market higher quality staple commodities. Efforts to facilitate linkages to quality markets beyond WFP, such as government or eventually private sector traders and millers are ongoing.
Article written by Marta Ortiz Nuñez, P4P country coordinator, Sierra Leone.
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