The Board of Directors of the African Development Fund, the concessional window of the African Development Bank Group, has approved a grant of $2 million to boost food production in Sierra Leone.
The programme falls under the African Development Bank Group’s $1.5 billion African Emergency Food Production Facility, a response to the global food crisis that resulted from the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which has deepened existing food insecurity in Sierra Leone.
The program will focus on the production, harvesting and marketing of rice. The Ministry of Agriculture will provide smart subsidies to 67,000 smallholder farmers to reduce the cost of certified rice seeds and fertilizers. The project will be rolled out through the established e-wallet input distribution system over two cropping seasons, beginning in 2022.
The programne will also benefit rice value chain actors and support the government of Sierra Leone to improve the regulatory environment in order to achieve climate-resilient agricultural development.
By the end of March 2023, the government expects to distribute 1,000 metric tons of subsidized fertilizers and 1,675 metric tons of subsidized seeds. An additional 5,862 metric tons of rice is expected.
Food accounts for about 32% of merchandise imports in Sierra Leone. The World Food Program estimated in April that 1.1 million people, 13.4% of the population, are facing acute hunger, meaning their lives or livelihoods are at risk as a result of inadequate food consumption. A further 2 million people are experiencing chronic hunger.
In 2020, Sierra Leone was described as having an “alarming” hunger level, ranking 113th out of 117 countries in the 2020 Global Hunger Index. According to the preliminary findings of the 2021 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis, 73% of Sierra Leone’s population is food insecure, with 11% of households severely food insecure, and 62% moderately so. The level of severe food insecurity is higher among female-headed households, at about 13%, compared to male-headed ones, at 11%. Local production of rice is inadequate to satisfy national requirements.
Economic growth projections have been revised down to 3.6% in 2022 from 5.9% due the Ukraine-Russia war, which has disrupted the global supply chain and led to increases in international prices of fuel and food items.