A team from The Netherlands including Paul Stanger, Director of Local Sourcing AMEE (African Middle East and Eastern Europe) Heineken International, and Dennis Jusu President of Sorghum farmers Association visited a SLARI demonstration farm and met with sorghum farmers in Kambia last Thursday, December 6.
Sierra Leone Brewery Limited (SLBL) largely owned by Heineken International is working towards producing a 100 percent sorghum beer and staff of the company visited the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI) demonstration farm in Rokupr. The government agency is experimenting with sorghum varieties which are well adapted to the rains and to see how acceptable farmers can cultivate sorghum off season as they do with maize and other crops.
Dr. Dennis Taylor of SLARI said, “local varieties are mostly used in Sierra Leone but an exotic variety originally from Nigeria is being evaluated.” Mr. Paul Stanger of Heineken International said that an exotic variety of sorghum harvested in Nigeria and Burundi could be good for Sierra Leone.
Mr Stanger commended the Brewery for using more locally produced sorghum which in turn is boosting the economy of the country and making sorghum farmers wealthy. He commended the Sierra Leone Government for changing the legislation in favour of local production, adding that government local content policy and the recent tax reduction for locally produced sorghum is encouraging both for the Brewery and for farmers to find better varieties of sorghum to increase yields.
He stated further that the project initiated by The Netherlands Government in conjunction with SLBL and EUCORD (European Cooperative for Rural Development) for the growing of sorghum ends in 2019. He is optimistic that by 2019 sorghum farmers would have greatly increased their yields and would have been able to be independent.
He maintained that the current volume of sorghum being produced in the country is encouraging, and the farmers should be looking at ways they can better access the market as well as organize themselves for their overall development.
In her contribution, Wendela Huisman, representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands said that the Netherlands government is happy to cooperate with Heineken and EUCORD in improving the livelihoods and food security of the sorghum farmers, their families and communities. She added that the Dutch government has decided earlier this year to extend the project to the end of 2019 and to make extra budget available in order to support the communities in their recovery from the ebola period. She maintained that at the end of the project the aim is for farmers to be able to work independently with commercial buyers such as the Brewery in a way that is sustainable for them and their communities.
Other members of the visiting team were Niels Hanssens, Deputy Executive Director EUCORD, Wendela Huisman, Policy Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs The Netherlands, Albert Ojo Collier, Corporate Relations Manager SLBL, Maria Singco, Sorghum Purchasing Manager SLBL and Unisa Conteh, Corporate Relations Assistant, SLBL.
Tuesday December 13, 2016