President Dr Julius Maada Bio has received a technical team from the K-Rice Belt Initiative of South Korea, which updated him on the outcome of their visit and plans to increase rice production, improve food security and ultimately reduce reliance on rice imports.
Led by Jae-Hyeon Ryu, the team comprising agricultural experts, told the President about their pre-feasibility study and assessment of potential sites in the country, adding that they had identified Bo Manehun in the Bonthe District due to its characteristics, including land fertility, expansiveness, transportation accessibility, and water supply feasibility.
He said they were now returning to present the findings to their government and following which the necessary infrastructure improvements in the chosen area would be undertaken to support the project.
He informed the President that they would return to commence the implementation process, first with a full-scale study while effective implementation should be expected to begin this year.
President Julius Maada Bio said he was very excited to have the team and notified them of the visit last week of the outgoing Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Sierra Leone, His Excellency KIM Young Chae, who informed him about their coming. He said he was eager about the relationship between Sierra Leone and Korea, especially in the aspect of food production.
The President expressed hope that the Koreans would share their experiences, and expertise and develop the capacity of locals by working with them. He added that that was very important for the transfer of knowledge and to get them fully involved in every aspect of the project.
He said he wanted to meet them in person to register his commitment to the project, adding that his government would give all the support needed, including making the roads leading to the sites they had chosen. He wished them well and assured of his government’s readiness whenever they were ready.
The K-Rice Belt Initiative, launched by South Korea as a part of its international aid and cooperation programmes, involves collaboration with several African countries to enhance their rice production capabilities based on their experience and success in rice cultivation and agricultural technology.
Today’s visit is a follow-up to discussions, including those between President Bio and the Korean President, His Excellency Yoon Suk Yeol, during the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September last year.
Immediately after that meeting in New York, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Dr Henry Musa Kpaka, travelled to Korea and engaged the Deputy Prime Minister, Choi Sang-mok, the leader of the K-Rice Belt Initiative to express Sierra Leone’s interest.
His formal application for Sierra Leone to join the countries receiving support under the initiative was also approved by the Korean Government. The partnership was to be later formalised through a memorandum of understanding signed between the two countries on 16 October 2023, the day the FEED SALONE was launched by the President.
According to the MoU, K-Rice Belt Objectives would seek to increase rice production by introducing high-yielding seed varieties to significantly boost local rice production and reduce reliance on imports.
It would also ensure technology and knowledge transfer through the introduction of advanced South Korean agricultural practices and high-yield rice varieties, including the provision of machinery for the project and extension services by the Koreans. It would further support sustainable agricultural practices and long-term viability and resilience in rice cultivation.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of The Republic of Sierra Leone State House.