(Image & Story: Vickie Remoe)
On the morning of January 29, 2011 farmers and residents of the surrounding communities in Yankasa Section in Makari Gbanti Chiefdom descended on Addax Bioenergy’s field office in Lungi Acre to participate in the inaugural graduation of the first 118 participants in Addax Farmer Field and Life School (FFLS).
The Farmer Field and Life School is a sub-component of Addax Bioenergy’s Farmer Development Program wherein; Addax seeks to improve agricultural skills, and increase food security for subsistence for project affected communities in Bombali and Tonkolili Districts of Northern Sierra Leone.
Each affected village is eligible for FFLS training and mechanization and extension services. The Addax FFLS has around 25 participants of which a majority are women who meet on a weekly basis to increase their knowledge of issues such as pest control, usage of farmer produced compost and fertilizer, and tips for avoiding leech injuries. Addax trains and supports two facilitators per community under its Master Trainer, Mr Sahr Komba, who is a former FAO designated national FFLS trainer.
Taking visitors on a tour of the facilitator training site, Mr. Komba explained, “Our schools have no walls, and our curriculum combines traditional knowledge with new techniques, turning our farmers into researchers who can immediately test out what they learn in school on their farms.” He also added that, Addax provides at cost seed support to farmers and also makes tractors available to communities for land preparation under the company’s farmer development program. The combined farmer training and support program ensures that those villages directly and indirectly affected by the project improve their livelihoods. Mr Jorgen Sandstrom, Deputy Managing Director of Addax Bioenergy Sierra Leone stated, “We created the farmer development program as a means to mitigate for our land take so that those who are directly affected are not negatively impacted by the project”. He also underlined that the Addax Farmer Development Programme is the second largest agricultural operation in Sierra Leone after Addax own commercial operation.
The FFLS graduation was attended by local Addax staff, community stakeholders including the local District Council, representatives from the FAO, the National coordinator for the Smallholder Commercialization Project (SCP), Directors of Crop and Extension Division from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Food Security, and head of Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARi) for Bombali. Speaking at the ceremony, Mr. Kamara, national coordinator of SCP explained that, “the Government of Sierra Leone views Addax Bioenergy’s Sugar to ethanol project as a crucial private sector agricultural development that serves as a case study for mechanized farming in post conflict Sierra Leone.” He further added that critics of the project often neglect to note, that “only 11% of the country’s 4.5million hectares of arable land is currently in use, leaving enough land for both biofuel cultivation and food production.”
The 118 graduates, of which 79 are women, represent the 7 surrounding villages in the Yankasa section including WoreahYeama, Lungi Acre, Rogmaneh, Rogmaro, Maronko, Yankasa and Madrissa. After receiving her FFLS diploma, a farmer Musu Sesay, was thrilled, “I am happy that all the hard work has brought us here today, we will succeed”. The 8 months program is the first Farmer Field and Life School training in Bombali District, Sierra Leone to see more female farmer graduates than men. In the coming months, Addax Bioenergy will support many more Farmer Field and Life Schools while those who have graduated will be integrated into the Ministry of Agriculture’s Smallholder Commercialization Program and encouraged to form rural farmer based cooperatives so they can become eligible for Agricultural Business Centers from the Government of Sierra Leone.
About Addax Bioenergy in Sierra Leone
Addax Bioenergy is an integrated sugar to ethanol and power project in Bombali and Tonkolili Districts of Northern Sierra Leone that covers 10,000 hectares or less than 1% of the total national arable land of 5,3 million hectares. When it is fully operational, Addax Bioenergy Sierra Leone will provide over 2000 new jobs. The project is a €220 million investment funded by four bilateral and two multilateral development banks. Addax Farmer Development Programme is a twofold community driven food security and farmer training program for villages located on project affected land.