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June 16 (Bloomberg) -- Sierra Leone will spend $403 million over the next five years to help small-scale farmers boost crop production, said Sam Sesay, the West African nation’s minister of agriculture, forestry and food security.
The country is also trying to attract large agricultural projects, he said in an interview June 14 in Freetown, the capital.
Sierra Leone is turning to agriculture to help rebuild its economy after an 11 year-long civil war that ended in 2002. Farmers are being encouraged to plant crops including rice and cassava through the government’s program, which has so far distributed $28 million, Sesay said.
“The combined approach of supporting small-holder farmers with support from donor partners and encouraging large scale investment in agriculture will promote economic growth,” he said.
The World Bank gave two agriculture grants worth $42 million to Sierra Leone, the Washington-based lender said on its website May 29.
“Success in the sector is within reach, and is vital for reducing poverty and boosting household incomes,” Vijay Pillai, the bank’s country manager for Sierra Leone, said in the statement.
Small-scale farmers are using 12 percent of the country’s arable land, leaving room for the larger companies the government hopes to lure, Sesay said.
Geneva-based Addax & Oryx Group Ltd.’s Addax Bioenergy began a 10,000-hectare sugar-cane plantation in Makeni, 137 kilometers (85 miles) east of Freetown, and expects to begin producing ethanol by 2013, the company said on its website.
Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries on the continent, with gross domestic product per capita of $341, compared with the sub-Saharan African average of $1,127, according to the World Bank.
The government will spend $30.6 million on agriculture in its budget this year, or 8.9 percent of the state’s total spending plans, with more than 70 percent of that funding coming from donors, said Mathew Dinge, the director of budget in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, by phone June 14.
--Editors: Emily Bowers, Philip Sanders.
To contact the reporter on this story: Silas Gbandia in Freetown via Accra at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at email@example.com.