Copyright Platinum Media…
The large expanse of land under cultivation and the energy exhibited by a group of young people we met at the National Youth Farm near Masiaka was clearly indicative of an excellent vision by the government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Youth Affairs.
On the other hand, a derelict farm tractor (said to be the personal property of the Youth Minister) and the absolute absence of modern agricultural inputs and starving crops also mean a sustainable youth farm project shall remain a farce or rather turn out to become a monumental failure.
The 250 hectare farm is by no means an ambitious project by the Youth Ministry. What we however discovered when we visited the farm recently speaks volume of the seriousness by key stakeholders like the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure the success and sustainability of our national youth farm project.
Speaking to Platinum Media, Senior Farm Supervisor, Abu Bakarr Sesay lamented over the delay of “stipend” payment to some 300 volunteers at the farm. “75% of our volunteers are women and most of them work in a large farm like this is by manual labour…” he said as he used an improvised handkerchief to clear his sweaty face.
Mohamed S. Kanu who introduced himself as head of the marketing department said his office merely exists on paper as there are no processing or marketing facilities to add value to whatever little produce they have harvested since the farm was established two years ago.
“Some of our volunteers don’t receive any stipends….most of the produce we harvest is stored as seedlings for the next planting season”
Mohamed also believed the initial support the project was getting from donors is no longer forthcoming. “Only government is supporting us now and we are still not able to stand on our own because the support is far from being enough” he lamented.
The youth farm is clearly struggling. The shocking aridity of the land points to the absence of proper soil management practices. We discovered that some of the large water tanks reportedly provided by an NGO for irrigation purposes were actually empty.
We were unable to get the Youth Affairs Minister, Alimamy Kamara for his comments. However, we left the youth farm with the impression that another brilliant vision by government to harness youth potential may hit the rocks if something is not done immediately. Sierra Leoneans should not be surprised to see our youth farm producing crops that are barely enough to feed a single household.
Platinum media cannot understand why there appears to be very little intervention from the Agriculture Ministry and other agricultural institutions towards the national youth farm.
We will press further to talk to officials from both ministries on the unforgivable state of our national youth farm project.