Women farmer groups on the road to recovery in Sierra Leone

Women farmer groups on the road to recovery in Sierra Leone

24/09/2015

Thirty women groups attached to the Koinadugu Women Vegetable Farmers’ Cooperative benefited from high quality vegetable seeds of different varieties with support from FAO to enhance their production and depleted income.

The seed distribution which was done in Kabala Town, Koinadugu District in Northern Sierra Leone is part of FAO’s response to mitigate the adverse effect of the Ebola disease outbreak on the farming communities in the country, with the support of the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF).

Movement restrictions, quarantine measures as well as ban on group activities and periodic markets temporarily imposed during the outbreak caused a major setback to the women farmers activities as most of their vegetable production got perished. This has directly affected their income and their ability to pay outstanding loans. In order to identify areas for support based on felt needs, a countrywide assessment was jointly undertaken by FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture to ascertain the impact of the outbreak on Agriculture Business Centres (ABCs) activities.

Today, sixteen ABCs are currently supported by FAO to secure farming inputs and revamp their Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs). The Koinadugu Women Vegetable Farmers’ Cooperative, which includes two ABCs, is part of them. Its members had suffered from the depletion of a revolving capital amounting SSL 153, 6 million, which was used to provide them with loans and supply farming inputs centers

The Cooperative is made of 30 women groups from 11 chiefdoms, with all members depending on vegetable farming for their livelihood and upkeep of their families. The Cooperative benefitted SSL 150 million from FAO to revamp their village savings and provide them with farming inputs. Each group benefited from four tins of desired vegetable seeds of different varieties including lettuce, cabbage, onion and tomato.

Distributing the seeds, Joseph Brima, Assistant FAO Representative, expressed delight over the resilience and unanimity of the women farmers throughout the outbreak. He reassured them of FAO’s commitment in ensuring that farmers recover from the loss they had experienced in particular on their savings and income. “FAO provided you this support at this moment because we realized that you cannot plant without seeds, and it is through farming that you meet your basic needs and educate your children.” he said.

He encouraged them to remain united, double their efforts and make sure that the seeds are used properly so that they can continue to make their living and play a key role in their communities.

Haja Sundu Marrah, Chairlady of the Koinadugu Cooperative, was relieved that such a gesture came at the time when they needed most, and especially because they were given the opportunity to buy the desired seeds well-adapted to local conditions. “Without these seeds none of us would have planted this season because it is very difficult to afford high quality seeds and most of us had used our revolving funds during the peak of the outbreak in the country.” she said. She assured FAO of a revamped energy among her membership to work harder and produce encouraging yield, and also multiply their capital.