The Sierra Leone-West program is a business-oriented poverty-reduction initiative of World Hope International (WHI) in conjunction with FRB. The program works with smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone to develop sustainable, culturally relevant agribusiness enterprises at the village level, such as growing and selling mangoes and pineapples to a local juice processor.
Communities in the program area are exceedingly vulnerable. Lack of employment among men and women of working age causes poverty. Lack of capital to cultivate food creates food insecurity. Heavy rains characterize half of the growing season, hampering an already inefficient system. Fractured public and interpersonal trust from the 1991–2002 civil war frustrates successful collective action. All of these oppressive conditions limit the potential of smallholder farmers.
Sierra Leone-West calls forth the knowledge, energy and experience of the country’s rural farmers to create lasting change. WHI began training smallholder farmers in 2011 to profit from the sale of mangoes. Participating farmers organized themselves into village cooperatives so they could work together more effectively. Each cooperative is linked as a direct supplier to an international juice processing company, Africa Felix Juice (AFJ). The juice processor is part of the FIRST STEP Special Economic Zone (SEZ), a subsidiary of WHI.
FIRST STEP, Inc. facilitates foreign direct investment in Sierra Leone. WHI works closely with FIRST STEP and AFJ to insure that the supply chain is sustainable and mutually beneficial to farmer, processor, exporter and investor alike.
In the summer of 2012, WHI launched a pineapple-growing initiative called “Block Farming.” Rather than creating a large corporate pineapple farm, it formed five 5-acre “block farms,” training local smallholder farmers in commercial pineapple cultivation for sale to AFJ. Block farming increases productivity, income, and business skills, and links farmers to market opportunities. By integrating smallholder farmers into the agricultural value chains of a processing company located in the FIRST STEP SEZ, food security improves in vulnerable communities.
The program addresses food security by increasing the production of nutritious food with training, and secures a sustainable stream of income for farming families from commercial growing. The additional income enables farmers to purchase necessary inputs for expanding their farms and food storage facilities, and to buy nutritious food during the hungry months if necessary. Other common uses of income are to pay school fees or medical bills, or to make home improvements.
Participants emphasized to recent FRB visitors the new work opportunities that the program has enabled for youth and women. Farmers remain committed to their family rice and vegetable cultivation, and hire local youths to help in the pineapple fields during the busy season. So far, it is a win-win-win!
Sierra Leone-West encompasses 10 communities, 100 households and 1,000 individuals