The original RFCIP was a US$ 10 million grant project and completed in June 2014. It was approved by IFAD’s Executive Board in April 2007, becoming effective in May 2008; since January 2009, the RFCIP has been under the direct supervision of IFAD with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) being the lead agency with the main responsibility for the overall supervision of the Programme. The Central Bank of Sierra Leone has the responsibility for the supervision of the regulatory aspects of the access to financial services component (both the Community Banks and Financial Services Associations). As at completion date, the overall progress of the RFCIP has been exceptional, following a trend of exceeding its year-on-year objectives, and has reached 100% of overall objectives, and with a 100% overall disbursement rate. Additional financing of US$ 2.15 million was also approved on a 50% highly concessional loan and 50% grant basis, of which total disbursement is also 100%. This project is also rated as one of the best performing projects within the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS).
The RFCIP created 7 CBs (Community Banks) and 36 FSAs (Financial Services Associations) that are now fully operational. The project also restructured 6 distress Community Banks established by BoSL from 2003-2008. In addition, RFCIP was also delegated to implement component 3 (Access to Finance) under Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAFSP). The rural finance component of GAFSP has seen the establishment of 15 more FSAs taking the number of FSAs to 51 and also established 4 more CBs that has now increased the number of CBs to 17. The Technical Assistance Agency (TAA) which has now been transformed to the Apex Bank is charged with the responsibility of providing products and services to CBs and FSAs and supervising and monitoring these institutions as mandated by BoSL.
In line with the current 2010-2015 COSOP, a second phase Rural Finance and Community Improvement Programme (RFCIP2) has been jointly conceived by IFAD and the Government of Sierra Leone to build on the achievements and successes of the RFCIP1 thereby strengthening and broadening the rural financial system in Sierra Leone and establishing stronger linkages with the agricultural sector. This follows the recommendation arising from the RFCIP mid-term review, and the request by the Government to expand the efforts in increasing access to rural finance and agricultural financial products. Within the framework of the national strategy for economic growth and development, which prioritizes the agricultural sector, rural finance has become a key strategic tool in promoting agricultural development.
RFCIP was initially piloted in the four districts namely: Kono, Kailahun, Kenema and Koinadugu districts. However, with the GAFSP funding and the coming of RFCIP 2, the project has been expanded on a national level.