Members of Parliament yesterday ratified a US$40M loan agreement meant to boost the agric sector in the country. They are;
1. Financial Agreement (Small Holder Commercialization and Agri-Business Development) between the Republic of Sierra Leone and International Development Association, dated 14th March, 2016, Credit No.5767-SL
2. Project Agreement (Small Holder Commercialization & Agri-Business Development Project) Between International Development Association and APEX Bank Limited, dated 14th March, 2016, 5767-SL.
In his presentation in the Well of Parliament, the Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Momodu Kargbo said that the loan agreements were meant to be paid in 37 years with six years grace period and will benefit 50,000 farmers across the country out of which 40% will be women.
The Minister said that 30% of the Country’s GDP comes from the Agriculture Sector, and the need for the inclusion of MPs to educate their different Constituents about the need to move from subsistent farming to that of mechanization and commercialization is important.
APC Member of Parliament, Aaron Koroma described the loan “as farmers friendly and flexible, and therefore should not end up like other agriculture projects but one that will be implemented according to its intended purpose”.
He furthered that this is an opportunity for graduates who studied Agriculture to have employment in that field just as any graduates in education are assured of being a teacher.
Hon. Aaron Koroma reiterated that APEX Bank creates access for farmers to have small loan so that after harvest they can pay back with a reasonable interest.
APC’s Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo of Constituency 030 said that the provision of this loan “is a step to move from subsistent farming which is only done for survival to that of mechanized farming which talks about commercialization”.
Hon. Kargbo said that the Ministry of Agriculture and seven Ministries, Departments and Agencies stand to benefit from what he referred to as a precious and needy loan as many banks discourage farmers for loan by asking 23 to 25 % interest rate but with Government negotiation, Apex Bank will be asking only 10% interest.
The Minority Leader, Hon Bernadette Lahai said that many students who graduate from studying Agriculture end up working in the banking sector or other disciplines as they lack the practical aspect of agriculture.
She therefore called on the need for institutions like Njala University to be equipped so that graduates will develop interest in the agric sector after graduation.
The Majority Leader Hon. Ibrahim Bundu said that the monitoring and implementation of the US$40M Dollar loan should not be done with levity as any failure on the part of the beneficiaries will result in the cancellation of the loan by the donors.
He therefore called on The House to ensure that laid down policies governing the agreement are followed.