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February 28, 2010

Cannabis trumps rice as cash crop in Sierra Leone

Farmers in Sierra Leone are increasingly cultivating cannabis instead of rice, which is denting food production in the country, Vice-President Sam Sumana said on February 17.

Speaking during a one-day meeting where regional ministers pledged to jointly fight drug traffickin, Sumana said "the cultivation of cannabis has a negative effect on (Sierra Leone's) food production capacity."

"During and after the war, in some parts of the country, more and more of our people are developing interest and diverting their energies into the cultivation and trade of cannabis in place of our staple food, rice."

A decade-long civil conflict in which 120,000 people died ended in 2002.

"The government is dismayed at this appalling situation and we are committed to do all we can to mitigate this threat and redivert the interest of our people to legitimate farming."

At Wednesday's meeting Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau and Liberia formed the West Africa Coast Initiative to deal with "threats posed by organised crime, illicit drug trafficking and drug abuse," according to a declaration.

United Nations data presented to the meeting indicated the West African sub-region was a hub for cocaine and other narcotics trafficking from Latin America into Europe, worth one billion dollars/euros annually.

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