Sierra Leone pushes $400 mln plan for farm sector

Fri Nov 19, 2010 6:28pm GMT

* Centres part of $400 mln plan to support farming

* Sectoral policies aim to boost 500,000 livelihoods

By Simon Akam

MASIAKA, Sierra Leone, 19 Nov (Reuters) - Sierra Leone opened a rat-free, mechanised "agricultural business centre" on Friday for struggling farmers to process and store their crops as part of a $400 million plan to boost the sector in the West African state.

Sierra Leone's climate and geography allow the cultivation of crops including rice, cassava and oil palm, and three and a half million people out of a total population of six million depend on smallholder farming to survive.

But the vast majority live below the poverty line and lose 40-60 percent of their yields because of poor conditions after harvest, meaning the country has to import staples like rice.

"Previously there is no storage so rats would infest our produce," said Isatu Kamara, a farmer in the town of Masiaka some 55 km (30 miles) from the capital Freetown.

"Now I will bring my produce here and it will be safer."   Continued...

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