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No assistance is too small: the story of Haja Sundu Marrah, a woman vegetable farmer in Sierra Leone

She was just 17 when her parents forced her to become a housewife. Her husband already had two wives and children, as well as an extended family of relatives, dependents and apprentices.

© FAO / Keifa Jaward

Not only was Haja Sundu Marrah the third wife, she was from a different clan, and so she was constantly targeted and antagonized by her husbands' other wives. “We were all living in one compound and there were constant confrontations over basic utilities like the water-well or kitchen,” she recalled.

Despite her difficult situation, Haja Sundu worked hard on her backyard garden, for she had a passion for farming. In 1985, the local District Agriculture Officer (DAO) approached her husband and encouraged him to allow her to join a farming group initiated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

“I was so happy when the DAO told me that my husband had accepted for me to join the farming group,” remembered Haja Sundu. Along with the others in her group, she was taught basic agronomic practices, cooperative management, marketing, financial management, leadership and other management skills. It was the first step in a long journey. Over the years, Haja Sundu has become a celebrated farmer and an agent of change in her district and beyond.

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