The agricultural sector (see Figure 4), comprising food crops, tree crops, fishery, livestock, and forestry sub-sectors is the backbone of Sierra Leone’s economy. Nearly two-thirds of the population depends on the sector for its livelihood (Braima et al., 2006; SSL, 2007; SSL, 2009). The crops sub-sector dominates the agricultural GDP with 33% in 2010 (SSL, 2010). Most farmers produce a wide range of rainfed food and tree crops, predominantly using the slash-and-burn or shifting cultivation farming system (SSL, 2007).
The major food crops are rice, cassava, maize, millet, sorghum, sweet potato, and groundnut. They are produced by smallholders with an average land holding averaging from 0.5-2.0 hectares. Rice is the most important crop, cultivated by nearly 85% of farmers, with an estimated annual consumption of 76 kg per person (Catling, 1992; SSL, 2007; IRRI, 2004). Cassava is the second most important crop. The tubers and leaves are consumed by households and cassava products (gari, flour and chips), are in high demand in urban areas. Production of food crops, especially rice and maize increased during 2008-2010 (Table 2). Oil palm is the main tree crop. Other perennial crops are citrus, cocoa, coffee, coconut and sugarcane. Crop yields are generally low due to: limited access to agricultural inputs, low levels of mechanization, pest and disease problems, lack of markets and market information, labour shortages and a weak private sector.