The Project Coordinator of the Sierra Tropical Agricultural and Manufacturing Company, Romeo Patricio on Wednesday 25th March 2016 reassured residents of Lugbu about their multi Million Dollar investments and large scale employment in factory and pineapple farm that are expected to be located in that part of the country. Romeo made this gracious statement at the consultative and sensitization meeting held at the Sambuya Town Court Barray in the Lugbu Chiefdom, Bo District amidst thousands of residents including local and traditional authorities, landowners, district officials as well as national representatives. The event was organized by the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA). According to officials, Sierra Tropical has a subsidiary company abroad, Dole with several years of experience in farming and manufacturing in the Philippines and the USA.
“We are here to help the people under the Government Agenda for Prosperity as well as the Post Ebola Project” Romeo Patricio reaffirmed adding that “About twelve Thousands youths, women, men and other Sierra Leoneans will be employed, when they commence operations in farming and manufacturing of juice”. According to him, they will generate employment, improve livelihoods, provide better opportunities and improve on socio-economic growth and development of Sierra Leone.
Romeo went on to say, the project will not only benefit the people of Lugbu Chiefdom but other Sierra Leoneans as well as job seekers of all standards. He maintained that, their company will conduct training for all employees in order to be able to work in their operations. According to him, after several consultations and surveys by experts across Sierra Leone, Lugbu Chiefdom was identified as the best for their agricultural productivity and factory.
“We will plant pineapple, mangoes, pawpaw, oranges, and other fruits with special and improved varieties in phases” he disclosed. He assured that, they will support out-growers in Lugbu and other surrounding communities to be self-reliance. Finally Romeo said they need 25,000 acres of land from Lugbu and any delay in their operations depends on the land lease agreement with land owners and authorities.
Earlier in his welcome address, Paramount Chief Alhaji Mohamed Nairo of Lugbu Chiefdom expressed thanks and appreciation over the laudable initiative. He said the project was a blessing in disguise, if one considers the distance and identification of their chiefdom. “Let us embrace this investment” he said. He maintained that the moment was very crucial for his people. He related the investment to the Colonia Days, when Sumbuya as a chiefdom headquarters town became a melting pot for navigation, education, businesses and icon of Western Civilization. Further the Paramount Chief advised all those present to listen properly and be agents of information to other relatives or indigenes of Lugbu. He also made caution with reference to the bad land lease agreement in Malen Chiefdom and asked his people to be very conscious about that.
He finally assured the company of peaceful atmosphere and embracement.
In his statement, Director of Export Development SLIEPA, Mr. Shaika Kawa said the investors were very credible and ready to invest but they want to get the consent of the people. According to Mr. Kawa, many districts and chiefdom opted for this laudable agricultural project but Lugbu emerged as the lucky winner. He reminded people about SLIEPA’s mandate and independent roles between the investors and the locals.
In her contributions, Hon Helen Kuyembeh of Constituency 70 comprising Lugbu Chiefdom said the residents of that area must be grateful to CEMATT, SLIEPA and MAFFS for selecting them among others.
“This project is going to kick poverty, create jobs and is going to change the lives of our people” she assured. She said they are going to be very clever in order to create a win, win situation for the people to benefit, as the company makes profit. According to her, it is their responsibility to protect the interest of the people whenever there is any laudable development project. She disclosed that the project will improve the livelihoods of the people hence it commence.
Representing the Ministry of Agriculture, the Deputy Head of Agric-Business Promotion Unit, Jeneba Alharazim said big agricultural investment is better than subsistence farming. She disclosed that her ministry is always ready to accommodate investors but also monitor their activities. She informed that, if the residents support the project, it will not only benefit them but also improve their lives from subsistence farming to large mechanized and profitable agricultural input.
“Be steadfast to produce more for a larger market” she advised.
The Chairman for Bo District Council, Joseph M. Bindi said the council has prepared a guide for investors and as long as the Sierra Tropical works with the document, everything will be easy and done amicable.
The event was climaxed by comprehensive questions and answers session.
Meanwhile, the company delegation and SLIEPA officials made a courtesy call visit on the Resident Minister South, Muctarr Conteh and the District Council prior to their arrival at Sumbuya Lugbu.
On Thursday 26th March 2016, the delegation also visited Sierra Rutile where their company’s pineapple variety is under research trial for investment in Sierra Leone. Experts working at the crop site disclosed that viability and productivity of the variety is assured. The variety according to officials was brought from Latin America.