The Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) in partnership with Smallholder Commercialization and Agribusiness Development Project (SCADeP) has ended a four-day training on February 2nd,2019. The training for agribusinesses, small and medium enterprises and farmer-based organizations in market linkages, started in Port Loko at the District Agricultural Conference Hall and ended in Makeni at the Midwifery School Hall. Both trainings were preceded by media outreach programmes in both towns.
Official Opening Ceremony by SLIEPA CEO Mr Sheku.L. Koroma
The SLIEPA Director of Export Development, Mr. Boson Margai, said, the workshop focused on identifying and training those in agribusinesses, small and medium enterprises and farmerbased organizations on how to create link from one market to another, how to network with other famers to increases value and productivity in a bid to compete in international market and how to utilize the modern methods of cultivation to increase quality and yield.
Mr. Margai assured the participants that the new face of SLIEPA under the leadership of Mr. Sheku Lexmond Koroma, considers mentorship as an essential tool to achievement, therefore they will embark on constant follow up to advise as a means to find remedy to their challenges. He said SLIEPA does not have money to offer them, but it will provide technical advice to move their market from the suburb to a bigger market and to international market.
The Chief Executive Officer of SLIEPA, Mr. Sheku Lexmond Koroma, when officially launching the training in Port Loko City, thanked the participants for honoring their invitation; he as well acknowledged their seriousness towards agribusiness and went on to enlighten them on the role of SLIEPA; that the organization is not a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), but an agency of government that promotes investment and export. He stated that Port Loko is very much strategic and has advantage over some other districts as it hosts the International Airport and at the same time it is closer to the country’s capital city. He therefore encouraged them to take advantage of their proximity to these facilities.
Group Picture with Makeni Participants
Mr. Koroma disclosed that his management is planning to establish a SLIEPA Office in Port Loko that will cover the whole of North-West Province, because of the province’s strategic placement and its effort in agribusiness. The C.E.O. joined his Director of Export Development to reiterate that SLIEPA does not have money to give them, but it has the capacity and organizational will to link them with investors which has the propensity to create significant impact on the country’s economy. He guaranteed them that the services of SLIEPA is absolutely free.
One of the facilitators of the workshop, Mr. Henry Fofanah, Manager of Export Development of SLIEPA, told participants in Makeni that they are aware of the many challenges those in agribusinesses, small and medium enterprises and farmer based organizations face and access to existing market is not an exception to those challenges. He said, this remains the reason why SCADeP and SLIEPA have initiated the strategy of business to business meetings to create linkage and to draw their attention to the search for existing domestic market within their environments. He continued saying that, those in vegetable faming and Gara tie dyeing for example, will partner with others to go into business with hotels, restaurants, Banks, supermarkets and so on. This will help boost our economy as the use of imported goods will be curtailed, he added.
Fatmata G Sillah an integrated famer (in poultry, vegetable, fishpond etc.) in Port Loko, appreciated the SLIEPA- SCADeP Business to Business (B to B) training as it has taught them new marketing skills. She noted that they started realizing the benefit of the training right in the training hall when they had discussions and exchange of contact with colleagues in the same business and off-takers. She said the workshop was important to her, because she has known that apart from the traditional market, she has an existing market through which she will realize bulk income after supplying her products.
The participants in the interactive session, highlighted their numerous challenges; These include but not limited to challenges in packaging products, cold-room for vegetables, rice processor and high tax on maize.