By Tamba Borbor
German International Non-Governmental Organisation- Welthungerhilfe (WHH) has on Thursday 5th May 2022, under its Agri-Business Development from Organic Resources (ADORE) Project held a High-Level Workshop for Ecological Organic Agriculture Curriculum Validation for Njala University at the Family Kingdom Resort Conference Hall in Freetown.
The ADORE project which is funded by the European Union under its Boosting Agriculture and Food Security portfolio in Sierra Leone is focused on “Promoting Organic Coca Value Chains in Sierra Leone.”
Speaking at the Workshop which attracted participants from the Academic staff of Njala University in addition to representatives from the Ministry of Higher Education and Technology and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Heads of Farmer Cooperatives including other stakeholders, George Muigai (WHH Head of Project) in his opening remarks stated that WHH is proud to be associated with efforts to enhance the technical capacity and expertise of farmers and individuals interested in the area of Ecological Organic Agriculture.
He went on to stat that farmers in Sierra Leone have been practising organic agriculture by default; without the required knowledge and expertise.
“This is the first University in Sierra Leone that would be offering a Certificate course in Ecological Organic Agriculture in the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences and as time goes on, as an organisation, we are committed to raising more funds from donors and other development partners to push it to Diploma, Degree and Post Graduate levels. This is a unique opportunity for Njala University in the West African belt,” he stated.
The Head of Project further explained that the objectives also border on creating the requisite expertise in Organic Agriculture which he noted: “is scarce at the moment in the country.”
Mr. Muigai noted that “we cannot rule out the fact that currently, Sierra Leone is organic by default not by design,” adding that there are existing policies but developing the standards is key in addition to harmonising the international organic regulations and standards to align with the situation in Sierra Leone to ensure that the country’s value chains have a unique value of organic production.
In 2021, the Head of Project of ADORE disclosed that Sierra Leone was ranked third in the world for exporting organic cocoa to the European Union.
He went further to inform us that efforts are underway to formulate policies on organic agriculture in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Sierra Leone.
“This is a very important Workshop and a start of a new dream for Njala University which would benefit the entire country,” George Muigai noted; while thanking the participants for their time and efforts in developing and being present to validate the curriculum.
Professor Allieu Mohamed Bah, the Dean of the School of Agriculture and Food Science expressed the delight of the University to be part of this history-making event; while reiterating that farmers in Sierra Leone practice organic agriculture by default but stressed that the paradigm has to be shifted to that of organic agriculture by design.
Professor Bah stated, “We want all of us to practice ecological organic agriculture because it is safe and healthy… and as a university, our three core mandates are to teach, do research and develop our communities.”
A lot of research he explained has been done on organic agriculture and that it is now time to enrol students and farmers who would be trained in the specialised discipline.
The Dean noted that the climate in Sierra Leone is now erratic with unpredictable rain patterns which adversely affect farmers; adding that the only way to mitigate such impact is to go pure organic which produces safe food for human consumption.
Professor Bah further noted that most of the fertilizers imported into Sierra Leone have heavy metals which are attributed to deaths from cancer as a result of the food we eat.
“We want to assure WHH and partners that come to the start of the new academic year in October 2022, we are going to start with the Ordinary Diploma level. We also want to thank Welthungerhilfe for providing the funds to visit Uganda to learn how they have been practising organic agriculture.
The Head of Rural Development and Government at the National Authorising Officer (NAO) – Andrew Tucker expressed satisfaction with the progress made by Welthungerhilfe in the implementation of the project while pledging the necessary support to the very end of the project.
“On behalf of NAO and the EU Delegation in Sierra Leone… from the monitoring report we have got, you have made steady and impressive progress from the very day you started implementing this project to this point in time,” Mr. Tucker confidently praised Welthungerhilfe.
The Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist of BAFS/CPU, Alfred Gborie stated, “WHH is topping the satisfactory progress chart as compared to other grantees from our monitoring and evaluation report.”
He assured me that they are happy with the progress made so far in the implementation and assured of their full support to the end of the four-year ADORE project.
Shem Mechao, a Consultant from Eco Spew Kenya was on hand to take participants through the entire Curriculum Development for Organic Agriculture and Certification University Course.
He explained the background information of the curriculum; national goals; the overall aim of the Certificate and Diploma Programme; the Curriculum proper which comprises two modules with all necessary courses to produce competent students and farmers in the new academic field of Ecological Organic Agriculture.
Mechao also touched on the issues of job opportunities for prospective students and farmers after the successful completion of this new course. During the Question and Answer session of the Curriculum presentation, a female lecturer from the Njala University asked whether the new course would be a stand-alone or integrated course.
Professor Allieu M. Bah responded that it would be a stand-alone course which would later be upgraded as it develops.
After the PowerPoint presentation, participants were divided into two groups to undertake group work and brainstorming to discern whether the curriculum is competence or conventional based; who the target beneficiaries are and streamlining of the target audience into Certificate, Diploma, Degree or Post Graduate levels.
During the Plenary session, stakeholders discussed, pinpointed loopholes, suggested new ideas and fine-tuned the curriculum to ensure it can stand the test of time before being rolled out in the coming academic year starting October 2022.
Another stakeholder engagement was held at the Njala University Campus at Mokonde on Friday 6th May 2022 as a follow-up where stakeholders dissected their feedback and proposed the next steps for a successful introduction of the new ecological organic agriculture curriculum.
The ADORE project is implemented by Welthungerhilfe (WHH) with its partners like Door To Europe, Moawoma Rural Women’s Cocoa Development Cooperative, IFOAM Organics International and Lizard Earth. It has a four-year duration with funding of a little over Two Million Five Hundred Thousand Euros provided by the European Union.