The Agriculture Value Chain Development Project (AVDP) is set to boost smallholder farmers to increase oil palm production in Sierra Leone. Oil palm is believed to be the most important oil crop in Sub-Saharan Africa and accounts for about half of the staple oil production. The crop is crucial to both food security and poverty alleviation particularly in areas where food supply is constantly threatened. It is reported that oil palm is the most profitable cropping enterprise in Sierra Leone. However, national oil production is still typically low. Due mainly to limited exploitation of suitable land resources and partly to the low productivity of most existing plantations which have outlived their economic life span.
Meanwhile, oil palm seed development is considered a major challenge especially for small scale farmers. And as a way of mitigating this problem, the AVDP which is currently the biggest agricultural project in the country will purchase pre-germinated oil palm seed-lets from reputable institutions in Africa, and through the School of Crop Sciences department, Njala University is being contracted as implementing partner to raise these high yielding and economically viable oil palm seedlings up to the end of the pre-nursery growth stage, thanks to the Government of Sierra Leone and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for the funding.
The AVDP will therefore support 3,000 producers each with a maximum of one hectare of oil palm plantation and ensure that they are more effectively linked to private sector markets for processing and marketing.
Through the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)was signed on 29th May 2020 by the Njala University and the AVDP for the establishment of pre-nurseries of540,000 pre-germinated oil palm seedlets which will be managed by the university for three months until the seedlings are ready for distribution to decentralized community nurseries. Framers will manage the seedlings in the community nurseries for 12 to 15 months before out-planting to the permanent fields for the establishment of 3,000 hectares of oil palm farms to farmers across the 15 agricultural districts in the country.
Why Njala University?
Njala University demonstrated profound expertise in the establishment, management, handling and distribution of oil palm seedlings raised in pre- nursery. The University has worked with previous IFAD supported projects such as the RCPRP and the Smallholder Commercialization Project, Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (SCP-GAFSP).The AVDP which is a successor project of the SCP-GAFSP is maintaining this relationship with Njala for the purpose of promoting agriculture which remain the biggest contributor to Sierra Leone’s GDP – around 50% and provides employment for two thirds of the country’s workforce.
The estimated contract cost is $191,900 to be implemented over a period of 5months beginning June 2020. This will provide employment opportunities for particularly youths and young adults living in the immediate vicinity of the university. The signing of the MOA took place at the University Secretariat and was witnessed by the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Dr. A B. Karim, Acting Vice Chancellor and Principal of Njala University, Prof. Osman Sankoh as well as other senior officials of the University, AVDP Project Manager, members of the project management team together with the press.
Prepared by AVDP Communication Unit
Note: the photos shows the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), the Acting Vice Chancellor of Njala University and other stakeholders from MAF, Njala University the AVDP
Credit: PR NU