Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sunday 9 February 2020 – President of the African Development Bank, AfDB, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has engaged President Dr Julius Maada Bio at a side event of the AU Summit running from 8-10 February 2020 and proposed ways they can work with Sierra Leone to improve farming, scale up nutrition and defeat stunting in children.
“Mr President, malnutrition accounts for at least 11 per cent of Africa’s Gross Domestic Product. We have 65 per cent of the world’s remaining uncultivated arable land. We have an abundance of freshwater and about 300 days of sunshine a year. There’s no reason for anyone to go hungry,” he said.
Dr Adesina, who expressed interest to visit Sierra Leone in mid-March, also told the President and his delegation that the Bank had already committed some US$14 million, which would be finalised by June this year, to specifically target innovation in agriculture, tackle corruption in fertilizer, seeds acquisition and distributions to farmers in the country.
Before he joined AfDB, the multilateral regional development finance institution based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire in 2015, Dr Adesina was Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture from 2011 to 2015 where he was widely credited for reducing the risk of corruption in the fertilizer industry by putting the private sector in charge of delivery.
He made reference to the Brazilian model of reducing malnutrition, adding that the country had a zero hunger programme that prioritized high level of hygiene, high quality of food and feeding in schools and made sure that most of what was supplied and served were produced by local farmers.
He urged the government of Sierra Leone to adopt that model by having a direct stake in the feeding of their children in schools, thereby increasing enrolment, retention and the overall achievement of reducing hunger and meeting the nutrition target of the country.
Dr Adesina observed that: “Farming might not be attractive in Sierra Leone because there is no guarantee facility for lending to farmers. We can continue to engage your government to ensure the de-risking farming, introducing new rice variety”, especially in a country where rice is grown under upland, inland swamp, boliland, riverain swamp, and mangrove swamp conditions.
In his contribution, Education Minister for junior and secondary school, Dr Moinina David Sengeh, assured the AfDB chief, who had praised the President’s respect for quality data, that the Directorate of Science Innovation and Technology, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, had created the Integrated Geographic Information System Portal to utilise technology, software and devices to collect, label and model data to inform real-time government and development partner decision making.
In his remarks, President Bio thanked the AfDB President for the consideration to support Sierra Leone and said he wished they had increased their investment, to which Dr Adesina said they would take note.
“We have placed food security at the centre of our Human Capital Development priorities. We believe that food security and nutrition are inextricably connected to the total development of the human being in achieving their full potential,” he said.
President Bio emphasised that the greatest contributor to economic growth was not physical infrastructure but “brainpower, what I can refer to as grey matter infrastructure”, and called on the AfDB and other partners to invest in better nutrition for children who were the future of the continent.
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