HOW THE EU DELEGATION AGRO-TECH INTIATIVES WILL BOOST SIERRA LEONE’S ECONOMY by Elizabeth M’balu Oke, Emily Gaffney
April 15, 2021
Agriculture is a critical component of West Africa’s economy, a region composed of a variety of ecosystems that provide suitable land for food production. For decades, Sierra Leone has however seen a steady decline in agricultural sustainability and innovation due to outdated agricultural practices, land degradation and climate change. Despite its abundance of favorable natural resources including its tropical climate and heavy rainfall, Sierra Leone has as a result become one of the region’s most economically endangered countries.
Sierra Leone enjoys a diverse environment with suitable land for the cultivation of a wide range of food and commercial crops as well as for livestock production.
The agricultural sector accounts for over 60% of Sierra Leone’s GDP and employs nearly two-thirds of the country’s labor force. It is primarily composed of local farmers using traditional practices. Yet, local farmers remain the most impoverished, with little to no upward economic mobility. This is due to many of the traditional agricultural practices becoming increasingly inefficient and compromising the country’s ability to take full advantage of its natural wealth and to sustain its population.
Land degradation also remains a critical issue in the country’s agriculture and is largely attributed to poor use of land, inefficient water practices and deforestation. These practices have exhausted the country’s land and impaired its soil fertility, thereby adversely affecting the population with hunger, malnutrition and economic distress. Furthermore, such effects have harmed agricultural development and the environment, which greatly reduces opportunities for economic growth in the agricultural sector.
To further its efforts, the European Union (EU) Delegation to Sierra Leone and the Government of Sierra Leone have signed a EUR 60 million / SLL 630 billion “Jobs and Growth Programme” to provide the much-needed boost to human capital-centred, sustainable development. This initiative aims to tackle the increasing number of issues in the agriculture sector while offering sustainable avenues for economic growth and job creation.
Under the Jobs & Growth Programme, the EU Delegation has launched the current Call for Proposals for agro-tech initiatives in Sierra Leone. This is a uniquely competitive opportunity being offered to Sierra Leonean organisations and SMEs seeking to develop and/or expand sustainable agro-processing and agribusiness through innovation and technology.
The agro-technology initiative is also expected to improve the agri-businesses’ ability to access the financial services required to sustain their business beyond the grant support provided by the EU.
Funding support from the EU will range from EUR 100,000 to EUR 2,000,000.
If you are interested in submitting a concept note, the proposal submission deadline is the 1st of June 2021, at 23:00 Brussels time.
For those interested in pursuing the agro-tech grant, we strongly encourage the attendance of the information session on the 5th of May 2021. Information can be found at https://forms.gle/Mj7VFR9yiR9ANQrx8.