What Comufarm do:
Comufarm is West African Agricultural Company with a varied commercial crop strategy. Emphasis on Community is at the heart of the Comufarm’s Company ethos, the Company name is an amalgamation of two words Community and Farm Comufarm. We primarily farm sustenance crops using the latest mechanised farming methods. Comufarm is committed to excellence and happily adheres to the maxims outlined in Sustainable Farming Practice namely:
- Environment Preservation
- Economic Profitability
- Most efficient use of non-renewable resources
- Protection of Public Health
- Social and Economic Equity
Comufarm’s primary focus is on rice production in Sierra Leone. Global rice consumption has consistently outstripped global rice production . This is causing a gradual drop in globally held rice inventories and is coupled with rising rice prices in the global market. This is echoed in Sierra Leone which is Comufarm’s principal area of operation. Comufarm’s partners have six generations of rice-growing expertise and possess a wealth of operational knowledge particularly in modern mechanised rice farming.
The West African state of Sierra Leone occupies 72,300 km2 of which 5.4 million ha are potentially cultivable. The crop sub sector with the staple food rice dominating contributes about 75 percent of Agricultural GDP. Annual per capita consumption of rice (104 kg) in Sierra Leone is amongst the highest in sub Saharan Africa. About 70 percent of Sierra Leone’s 4.9 million people in 2004 were below the national poverty line, with 52% living on less than US$1 per day, while 26% could not afford minimum daily calorific requirements.
The Government of Sierra Leone has prioritised agriculture as the most important sector of the national economy around which it is focusing its development efforts. This is not surprising because agriculture employs over 75% of the national work force. Land area of the country, covering 5.4 million hectares, is suitable for cultivation. The area comprises 4.3 million hectares of upland and 1.1 million of lowland. Over 90% of the lowland area is arable and suited to rice cultivation. These include the very fertile inland valley swamps found in all regions of the country, the less fertile saucer‐shaped bolilands in the northern region, the deep flooding riverain grasslands in the southern region and the tidal mangrove swamps of the North‐western coastal belt. Rice is also grown on the upland areas, throughout the country, employing the environmentally damaging slash and burn shifting cultivation system which is being discouraged. About two‐thirds of the population live in rural communities deriving their livelihoods from agricultural pursuits. And yet, annually, the country imports nearly 40% of the national staple food, rice.
Rice is very well established in the agriculture and diets of Sierra Leone. People consume an estimated (2015) 940,000 tonnes of rice annually, or more than 200 kg per capita. Ricelands cover some 180,000 ha and annual production is approximately 200,000 tonnes. For a myriad of reasons, domestic rice production has stagnated, and Sierra Leone now meets only 60% of its total requirements.
The farming methods of most farmers in Sierra Leone are currently so inefficient that even those who grow rice don’t produce enough to subsist. The process is cumbersome even before the farming begins. Farmers must negotiate a deal with the local chief or land owner for the right to use land.
Then farmers have to find rice seeds. “They can buy the seeds for money but more often they have to borrow the seeds and pay them back with interest.”
The farmer has no guarantee that the rice seed he is buying is viable or of a certain strain. Rice seed that have a long growing season looks almost identical to seed that have a short growing season, which introduces further risks and increases the chances of crop failure. The farmer ‘brushes’ (slashes and burns) the land if it is in the highlands or ‘heaps’ the wild grasses if it is swamp, and from then on the labour doesn’t stop. He must sow, and then weed, and then scare away birds. If the farmer has even a single day absence from the site, birds will take the majority of the harvest. If that happens, the farmer and his family is not only without anything to eat or sell, he is also in debt.
It is clear that Sierra Leone has great potential to become the major rice producer in West Africa. The demand for rice in Sierra Leone is considerable and increasing. Following an economic assessment of agriculture in West Africa, Comufarm has now identified a number of highly fertile sites in the North of the Country, where rice was previously grown on a semi mechanical basis. After extended talks with stakeholders the following steps are being taken to begin production.
- The site in the Mambolo Chiefdom of 15,000 Ha, a 60 acre site has been selected for Preliminary Yield Trials.
- Various strains will be grown for viability across the site.
- The site will provide information on best working practices and most promising stains for various locations in the Mambolo Chiefdom.
- Utilising the test plantation data a new 2000 acre site will be prepared and planted, the new site will be used to produce the Companies rice seed for phase two of the expansion program.
- A new rice mill will be installed at Mambolo replacing the archaic machinery currently in place.
- Rice seed production will be increased to enable planting of 10,000 ha.
- Full mechanisation will be implemented during the second phase.
- During each stage of the project a skill transfer program will be maintained to empower local stakeholders current with modern mechanised farming techniques.
- Comprehensive benefits in the form of Profit Sharing and will also include diverse Community Relations projects which have been contractually agreed with the Chiefdom with the consent of the Paramount Chief, Section Chiefs, Landowners, Woman and Youth Leaders.