GIEWS > Data & Tools > Earth Observation
GIEWS - Global Information and Early Warning System

Country Briefs

  Sierra Leone

Reference Date: 24-November-2016


  1. Aboveaverage rice production expected in 2016

  2. Coarse grain prices showed seasonal increases in previous months but declined in August with end of lean season

  3. In spite of significant improvements in food security situation, about 392 000 people still need food assistance

Above-average harvest anticipated in 2016

Harvesting of the 2016 paddy crop, virtually the only cereal grown in the country, is underway and is scheduled to be completed by the end of December. According to satellite imagery, rains and soil moisture have been generally favourable in most regions since the beginning of the cropping season, allowing the satisfactory development of crops. Rice production is forecast to expand further this year.

An above‑average harvest was already gathered in 2015, owing to favourable climatic conditions in the main rice-growing regions. In spite of the floods in some areas, which partly affected the production of rice and tubers, the 2015 cereal production is estimated to have increased by 10 percent compared to the previous year’s output. Production of rice, the main cereal grown in the country, also increased by 10 percent. Similarly, the cassava harvest increased significantly.

In 2014, the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak resulted in a serious shock to the agriculture and food sectors. Rice production declined by 8 percent compared to 2013. In particular, cereal production in the Kailahun District was substantially affected by the outbreak that started to spread when crops were being planted and grew during the crop maintenance period, and then expanded rapidly during the critical harvesting period for the staple rice, maize and cassava crops.

Food markets and trade activities continue to improve

Although the country’s dependency on imported rice has been decreasing in recent years, it remains a net importer, with a cereal import dependency ratio of about 18 percent. Trade flows of agricultural commodities to Guinea, Mali and Senegal have recovered significantly.

In addition, most public gathering restrictions have been lifted improving domestic food markets and trade activities. Prices of local staples, including local rice and cassava, showed seasonal increases in recent months, which were amplified by the significant depreciation of the Leone which led to an 80 percent increase in domestic oil price. However, food prices declined slightly in August reflecting new supplies from the first harvests in August and the end of the 2016 lean season.

Food situation improving

Beyond its impact on the agriculture and food sector, the EVD has seriously affected all other sectors of the economy. The mining, manufacturing and service sectors have been the hardest hit. According to the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), Sierra Leone’s real GDP grew by just 4.6 percent in 2014, compared to 20.9 percent in 2013 before the EVD. In 2015, the effects of the EVD epidemic resulted in a sharp decline of 25 percent. With the EVD largely under control, real GDP is predicted to grow by 1 percent in 2016. The disruption of food chains due to the closing of markets, road blocks and quarantines, restricted cross‑border trading, as changes in traders’ behaviour due to the fear of Ebola, significantly reduced the income of EVD‑affected communities, including producers, consumers and traders. Specifically, income‑generating activities typically led by women, such as small trading, were hit hard and the ban on bush meat has also deprived many households of an important source of nutrition and income. Although the Ebola outbreak has ended and the economic situation is improving, about 392 000 people were estimated to be in Phase 3: “Crisis” between June and August and continued to need food assistance. This represents a significant improvement from the 1.1 million estimated during the Ebola crisis.