The Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) over the weekend, ended a four-day Market Access and Value Chain training for agricultural Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Kono and Koinadugu Districts.
The District Agriculture Officer for Koinadugu, Bridget Kamara, said the training was timely as she aims to see products made in Koinadugu on the shelves of supermarkets across the country.
The purpose of the training, according to Bobson Margai, the SLIEPA Acting Director of Export Development, is to ensure that the participants learn new ideas on accessing bigger markets and how to improve on their traditional methods.
He noted that the training was geared towards developing the participants’ capacity on the intricacies involved in exporting their products to the international markets. He said though SLIEPA does not provide financial support to agribusinesses like Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), it offers technical services and facilitates support for them through other development partners from which many agricultural SMEs have benefited. He emphasized that SLIEPA was established to facilitate investment and to develop and promote export noting that the participants have the task to teach their colleagues the knowledge they have acquired from the training and that they are not alone, SLIEPA is with them, as it will be paying site visits to their facilities to record their challenges and discuss solutions.
He declared the training open on behalf of the Chief Executive Officer of SLIEPA, Sheku Lexmond Koroma and the Chair of the Board of Directors, Jonathan George. David Bartholomew, the training consultant, mentioned that the Market Access and Value Chain training is different from other trainings because it teaches the participants the elements required to sell their products in international markets.
Among other things, he energized the participants to add more value to their products so that they can meet the domestic standards of preparation to enter the international market.
The training covered product development and certification schemes, market identification and linkages, value chain and access to finance for SMEs. In an interactive session, the participants expressed their gratitude to SLIEPA for such a unique capacity building.
According to the President of Kono Women’s Cooperative, Bondu B. Sheriff, SLIEPA has positioned their minds towards entering bigger markets. She noted that their cooperative comprises 27 women’s groups and they are in various agricultural activities. Fatu Faal, the Chairlady of “Hadifoti Women’s Group” in Kabala, said the training has demystified the complexity surrounding exportation.
She said they have learned that, meeting the standards and the acquisition of certain certificates makes it possible to export products from Koinadugu to international markets.