Activista, ActionAid’s network of student and youth activists, have used the annual National Agricultural Trade Fair in Sierra Leone to raise awareness amongst land owners and traditional authorities of the right to food, women’s rights and control over land and other resources.
The activities of Activista at this year’s Trade Fair, which took place in the presence of the President of Sierra Leone and a host of Government Officials, included a radio panel discussion with the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security on the significance of the event to the Activista HungerFREE campaign.
HungerFREE aims to put the issue of hunger to the top of the political agenda and force governments to deliver on their commitment to halve world hunger by 2015 via innovative, powerful and global campaigning.
The Trade Fair, an annual event organised by the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security, is meant to create opportunities for local farmers nationwide to showcase their produce, create marketing and funding opportunities, and identify potential growth areas.
A major outcome of the discussion was a commitment by the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Sam Sesay, to ensure that the Government establishes and sustains the monitoring systems for illegal smuggling of basic food commodities to neighbouring countries, a trend which has resulted in the hiking of prices for basic food commodities in the local markets. He also made a commitment to increasing support to those farmers who have the potential to produce more.
“Government’s distribution of farming implements to national farmers in the provincial districts for 2011 will be based on the quantum and quality of expected yields. In other words, districts with more arable land will be provided with more farming support than those that are not” he stated.
The Governance Coordinator of ActionAid International Sierra Leone, Christian Lawrence, one of the panelists, urged the Government to work with rural women farmers because most of the government support to Agriculture goes to the male farmers.
“The support government normally provides to national farmers is generally low, and is noticeably comparatively negligible to women farmers. This reality is usually hidden because little or no effort is made to disaggregate farming support to farmers by gender. It is imperative that the government increase farming support to specifically women farmers to boost yields, since most of the work is being done by women” he said.
This year’s event was hosted in the Northern City of Makeni, in the Bombali District and was considered very significant because the district has earned the reputation of being the bread basket of Sierra Leone.
ActionAid International Sierra Leone also provided financial supported towards the successful implementation of the event.