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Sierra Leone to Boost Market Access and Agricultural Productivity for Smallholder Farmers

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The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved a $30 million International Development Association (IDA) grant to support agricultural productivity and access to markets for smallholder farmer-agribusiness in Sierra Leone.  

This additional financing for the Smallholder Commercialization and Agribusiness Development Project (SCADeP) will enable the project to invest in roads and bridges to improve connectivity thereby providing access to more remote areas of high agricultural production. Specifically, it will help build critical bridges across key river crossing points currently served by manual cable ferries. These manual ferries are mostly out of service due to increasing risks of accidents particularly during the rainy season when water levels are high.  

“The World Bank is focusing its interventions toward helping the agricultural sector recover quickly from the effects of COVID-19 and contribute toward higher medium- to long-term agricultural growth required to reduce poverty among smallholder farmers and promote inclusive growth,” said Gayle Martin, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone. “This project is aligned with the economic diversification and growth agenda of the Government.” 

Smallholder farmers are the drivers of many economies and play an important role in promoting livelihoods and food security amongst the rural poor. The additional financing is strengthening productive business linkages between farmers and selected agribusiness firms and other commodity off-takers. It builds on the results achieved by the project and will scale up the provision of improved seeds and fertilizers to increase farmers’ productivity. 

So far, the SCADeP project has supported the rehabilitation and maintenance of 166 km of feeder roads and the construction of 192 culverts and 6 bridges, thereby providing year-round access to farms, markets, schools and health centers for 77 communities in nine districts across the country. Average travel time on these roads has seen a significant reduction from 20min/km to about 2min/km. Another key accomplishment is a study to assess the agribusiness/out-grower landscape in Sierra Leone. This framework is serving as a guideline for the creation of effective and mutually beneficial long-term partnership arrangements between farmers, nucleus commercial farmers, agro-processors and exporters. 

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Why cybersecurity in the EU should matter to you

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From stolen data to blocked hospital systems: cyberattacks can have perilous consequences. Learn more about cybersecurity and its importance.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of the economy and society, creating opportunities as well as challenges. By 2030, 125 billion devices could be connected to the internet, up from 27 billion in 2017 while 90% of people over six are expected to be online. As cyberspace is by design interconnected and digital and physical are increasingly intertwined, new dangers emerge.

Definitions 

  • Cyberattacks are attempts to misuse information, by stealing, destroying or exposing it and they aim to disrupt or destroy computer systems and networks 
  • Cybersecurity includes information and communication security, operational technology and the IT platforms required to ensure the safety of digital systems 
  • Cyberdefence includes cybersecurity and threat analyses and strategies to protect against threats directed at citizens, institutions and governments 

Cyber threats in the EU: personal and societal costs

The use of digital solutions has long been on the rise and teleworking, online shopping and keeping in touch online rose sharply during lockdown. These solutions can benefit consumers and support the economy and the post-Covid recovery. However, there has been a corresponding increase in malicious cyber activities.Attackers may use phishing websites and emails with malicious links and attachments to steal banking information or blackmail organisations after blocking their IT systems and data.

A secure cyberspace is the basis for the EU’s digital single market: enabling solutions and unlocking its full potential by making people confident online. The 2019 Digital Economy and Society Index showed that security concerns limited or prevented 50% of EU internet users from performing online activities. The 2020 index indicated  that 39% of EU citizens who used the internet experienced security-related problems.

The damage caused by cyberattacks goes beyond the economy and finance, affecting the very democratic foundations of the EU and threatening the basic functioning of society.

Essential services and critical sectors such as transport, energy, health and finance, have become increasingly dependent on digital technologies. This, together with the increase in physical objects connected to the Internet of things, can have direct consequences, including making cybersecurity a matter of life and death.

From cyberattacks on hospitals, causing them to postpone urgent medical procedures, to attacks on power grids and water supply – attackers are threatening the supply of essential services. And as cars and homes become increasingly connected, they could be threatened or exploited in unforeseen ways.

Cyberattacks, deployed with for example disinformation, economic pressure and conventional armed attacks, are testing the resilience of democratic states and institutions, directly targeting peace and security in the EU.

Cybersecurity in the EU

Businesses and organisations in the EU spend 41% less on cybersecurity than their US counterparts. The European Union has been working to strengthen cybersecurity to allow the EU to become a global cyber player. MEPs recently called for common EU cyber defence capabilities and are working to ensure a high common level of cybersecurity in the EU.

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EU Politics

EU and Qatar sign landmark aviation agreement

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The European Union and the State of Qatar today signed a comprehensive air transport agreement, upgrading rules and standards for flights between Qatar and the EU. The agreement sets a new global benchmark by committing both sides to fair competition, and by including social and environmental protection. The signing means new opportunities for consumers, airlines and airports in Qatar and the EU.

Qatar is an increasingly important aviation partner for the EU. It was the 15th largest extra-EU market in 2019 with 6.3 million passengers travelling between the EU and Qatar. Ensuring open and fair competition for air services between both is therefore crucial, also for routes between the EU and Asia.

Adina Vălean, Commissioner for mobility and transport, said: “This agreement, the first one between the EU and the Gulf region, is a global benchmark for forward-looking aviation agreements. It is testimony to our shared commitment to economically, socially and environmentally sustainable aviation, based on a modern framework covering fair competition and closer cooperation on social and environmental matters. This agreement will bring new opportunities, more choice and higher standards for passengers, industry and aviation workers.”

Today’s agreement creates a level playing field that is expected to result in new air transport opportunities and economic benefits for both sides:

  • All EU airlines will be able to operate direct flights from any airport in the EU to Qatar and vice versa for Qatari airlines.
  • EU airports in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands will be subject to a gradual build-up of capacity until 2024. For more details on this, see the Q&A.
  • Strong provisions on open and fair competition will guarantee a level playing field.
  • The parties recognised the importance of social matters, agreed to cooperate on these and to improve their respective social and labour laws and policies as per their international commitments.

The agreement will facilitate people-to-people contacts and expand commercial opportunities and trade. Going beyond traffic rights, the EU-Qatar agreement will provide a single set of rules, high standards and a platform for future cooperation on a wide range of aviation issues.

Background

Qatar is a close aviation partner for the European Union; more than 6 million passengers travelled between the EU and Qatar per year under the existing 26 bilateral air transport agreements with EU Member States prior to the pandemic. While direct flights between most EU Member States and Qatar have already been liberalised by those bilateral agreements, none of them include provisions on fair competition, or social and environmental issues, which the Commission considers essential for a modern aviation agreement.

In 2016, the European Commission obtained authorisation from the Council to negotiate an EU-level aviation agreement with Qatar, which started on 4 March 2019. While the agreement still needs to be ratified by the parties before formally entering into force, it will start being applied from today’s signature.

Similar EU comprehensive air transport agreements have been signed with other partner countries, namely the United States, Canada, the Western Balkans, Morocco, Georgia, Jordan, Moldova, Israel and Ukraine. Further air transport agreements with Armenia and Tunisia are expected to be signed in the coming weeks.

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EU Politics

Sakharov Prize 2021: the finalists

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The 2021 finalists for the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are Afghan women, Jeanine Áñez and Alexei Navalny

The 2021 finalists for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are Afghan women, Jeanine Áñez and Alexei Navalny.

Meet this year’s finalists of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, who were chosen at a joint meeting of the foreign affairs and development committees on 14 October:

  • Afghan women, represented by 11 human rights activists
  • Jeanine Áñez, Bolivian politician
  • Alexei Navalny, Russian activist and political prisoner


Afghan women

Under the previous Taliban regime, women experienced forced marriage, high maternity mortality, low literacy, forced virginity tests and couldn’t travel without a man. Following the Taliban’s return to power, women are again excluded from government and education and their rights and freedoms are threatened. The women, who are nominated for their brave fight for equality and human rights, are:

  • Shaharzad Akbar – chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC)
  • Mary Akrami – head of the Afghan Women’s Network
  • Zarifa Ghafari – mayor of Maidan Shar since 2018
  • Palwasha Hassan – activist and the director of Afghan Women Educational Centre (AWEC)
  • Freshta Karim – founder of a mobile library and an advocate for education and learning
  • Sahraa Karimi – first female president of the Afghan state film company
  • Metra Mehran – women empowerment and education advocate and co-founder of the Feminine Perspectives Movement
  • Horia Mosadiq – human and women’s rights activist
  • Sima Samar – human rights advocate, former Minister of Women’s Affairs and former chair of Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission
  • Habiba Sarabi – member of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
  • Anisa Shaheed – political reporter


Jeanine Áñez

Jeanine Áñez is a Bolivian politician who became the interim president of her country in November 2019, after alleged electoral fraud by incumbent Evo Morales. In November 2020, after free and fair elections there was a peaceful transfer of power. However, on 13 March 2021 she was arrested on charges of “terrorism, sedition and conspiracy”. Accused of plotting a coup d’état against Morales, she has been imprisoned ever since.

Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny is a Russian opposition politician, anti-corruption activist and major political opponent of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Known through his LiveJournal blog, YouTube and Twitter accounts, where he has millions of followers Navalny came to international prominence by organising demonstrations, running for office and advocating reforms against corruption in Russia, Putin and his government. In August 2020, while on a trip to Siberia, he was poisoned. He spent months recovering in Berlin, but returned to Moscow in January 2021 where he was arrested. In February he was sentenced to 2½ years in prison. Now incarcerated in a high-security penal colony, he went on a 23-day hunger strike in April to protest the lack of medical care. In June 2021, a Russian court banned Navalny’s regional offices and his Anti-Corruption Foundation.

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