Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Binkolo Growth Centre
Binkolo is a small farming community located about 10 kilometers north of Makeni. Makeni is the main urban area serving the north of the country with a population of about 110,000. Prior to the war there had been a small centre for minor amount of food processing as well as a skills training centre for tailoring, blacksmithing and carpentry. As with so much else, the war halted production and much of the Binkolo Growth Centre property was destroyed. The war ended in 2002 and efforts at recovery have been slow. The UN agency UNIDO proposed the funding of a new and a rehabilitated building in 2005 although the process of discussion actually started in 2003. Construction finally got underway in February 2007 and based on my recent site visits completion is pretty close and the contractor is keen to earn his remaining 50% holdback!!.
Production at Binkolo
Food processing is to be initially focused in two areas, cassava and palm products. Cassava is a major local crop and staple food for most of the population, second only to rice. There is some small scale food processing plant for rice in the area. The oil from palm trees is also a basic product used in everyday life such as cooking oil, soap etc., and has the potential as an alternate fuel for vehicles. Food processing has not developed in Sierra Leone despite the fact that agriculture is the dominant sector of the economy. Subsistence farming is the main activity. Most products like cassava need to be consumed or processed within 2-3 days of harvest and as a result losses are reported to be high, as much as 50%. Food processing allows for greater yields even using simple technologies, increased storage capacity, greater production efficiency with the result that smaller losses result. Presently processed foods are imported from Europe and the Middle East and are expensive and not viable. A focus on two locally produced and successful crops is thus ideal as a basis for food processing.
Food science technology in Sierra Leone is poorly staffed and trained at the moment. At Binkolo the initial processing will be simple such as grinding, drying and packaging of the cassava root as well as the extraction of palm oil from the kernels. However an institution Njala University (yes it is called a university!) that I have visited in the City of Bo has started a training program. This should see the establishment of laboratories and contribute to food testing, implementation of standards and the training of food processors on food safety. With these skills now being taught, a broader range of food processing can be introduced such as jam processing, juicing and bottling etc.
In addition to the food processing capacity, the centre will also expand the training of local people in the artisan skills such as blacksmithing, carpentry, tailoring, weaving, soap making, as well as basic farming etc. These skills are already taught at Binkolo although the facilities are very basic. Students are typically male although there are some female tailoring students and attracting female students is a stated priority. I was moved to see that some of the students are polio victims as well as war time amputees. Earlier in the year I ordered about 1,000 pieces of hand implements for some local farmers and these were made reliably by the students of Binkolo. The implements such as hoes, spades, cutlasses and watering cans are still in use. The training function seems to me to be an excellent way to encourage the youth to participate rather that to become restless through unemployment.
The market area into which the products are to be sold is the entire region outlined on the map.
Apart from my Revenue Mobilisation tasks I have been pretty busy moving this project along and getting a lot of satisfaction from seeing the completion of the building.
very good your bloggg congratulations
Anyway, good luck with all the projects! Hope you are well and taking good care of yourself.
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