Farming activities drops in Tonkoh Limba

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

Although at subsistence pace, Agricultural rice production both in upland and low land used to be a lucrative venture in Northern Sierra Leone. Rural women farmers, their husbands and children has been engaged in this subsistence farming in Tonkoh Limba for decades during the farming season (rainy season) and during the dry season, they have been able to meet to their demands by keeping their families out of hunger and starvation.

But this phenomenon has changed in the Chiefdom and particularly in the whole district if not the region. The young people and the strong ones in particular who had been doing this subsistence farming for their families had all now invested their energies into logging in the Chiefdom in other to sell out their log proceeds to a monopolized investor who had already secured an “executive licence” to export the logs outside Sierra Leone.

In the past, the population is mainly farmers and also practising off-season activities such as gardening and hunting while the major food crops they have been growing are, rice (the staple food), cassava, millet, sweet potatoes and sorghum, while groundnuts and maize constitute the major cash crops for them.

According to research and experience in the past, Kambia District is considered as the main rice bowl of Sierra Leone. It has a large agricultural zone with extensive swamp areas found in each of the Chiefdoms, but more in the south-west, dominated by mangroves and large river estuaries. The rest of the vegetation consists of a mix between forest to the south and grassland or savannah to the north east. With annual rainfall above 2,500mm, the district has an impressive potential for upland, inland valley swamp and mangrove swamp farming.

The bushes where the cattle are raised are no more to be found and animal rearing of sheep and goats on small-scale units has declined in the chiefdom because of forced sales in order to compensate for the chronic fall in agricultural production and the subsequent rural poverty in the Tonkoh Limba. Investigation in Tonkoh Limba revealed that cattle rearing by groups of resident Fullahs in the North-east of the Chiefdom has similarly disappeared as they have migrated to Guinea, due to activities of the war and continuous cutting down and clearing of savannah areas where the cattle have been reared.

But for now, these agricultural potentials have all dropped while hunger and starvation is the present status quo for residents and inhabitants in Tonkoh Limba. Like other families in the Chiefdom, Pa Santigie Dama Sesay has a large family in Upper Tonkoh Limba and he has been doing well with it over the years. But when the logging activities came to his Chiefdom, his strong children; Kabbah and Sorie abandoned him to engage in cutting logs for sale. For the past years, “we have not been able to get the meal we used to be getting since my children left us here to engage in cutting down the logs in the Savannah grassland” Pa Santigie said.

Doing small vegetable framing for a living

Doing small vegetable framing for a living

“We have been farming here and at the end of the day feed our children and able to pay the fees of our children. But for now, me and my family cannot do this since our eldest children have abandoned us to engage in logging” Pa. Santigie maintained.

Pa Santigie does not only cares for the status of his family and the starvation they are facing but he is also concerns about the present cracks and fault being caused by heavy duty vehicles going to their Chiefdom in other to collect more than ten tons of logs on a daily basis.

Logging is enriching some people in Tonkoh Limba and some business people while causing problems for residents in the chiefdom. Pa. Santigie said they have lived in the chiefdom for decades and they were not used to the logging of the timber but had been maintaining it for future use. He opined that “if this practice of logging is not stop in the Chiefdom, it will continue to cause problem for our families and for the entire Chiefdom.

Our forests are going rapidly and agriculture is fading away.  The government of Sierra Leone issued a controversial ban on logging and export from Sierra Leone. It was rather a ban meant to exclude many people from the business and monopolize the logging activity to one Mr. Suma who many activists described as a close associate of the State House. Mr. Suma was given an executive license to export “semi-finished “logs outside of the country.

Information at the Quay indicates that Mr. Suma had exported about 700 “semi-finished” logs of containers but he allegedly underestimates his export to be only 35 full containers. According to information gathered from different government sources, State House is protecting Mr. Suma in other to effectively carryout his export of the semi finished logs and defended that this sole exporter, is indebted to many people to the tune of more than four billion Leones and the only way he can offset such monies is by allowing him to export the logs out of Sierra Leone. Information also indicates that the Trade Ministry and other Agriculture officials rejected the offer of “executive license” but that was ignored at high level.

Sierra Leon’s Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security who is also a descendant from Tonkoh Limba earlier said that logging is allowed in the country in other to carry out local market and not with the intention of exporting out of the country.

Like what Pa. Santigie and his family have been experiencing, many homes in Kambia are facing serious drains in their agricultural activities especially at this time of farming season. Proper information on the important of farming and the dangers of logging may be necessary for rural communities in Tonkoh Limba Chiefdom, if not woos be tied upon all.

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