Helping farmers reach Zero Hunger in Sierra Leone

Usman Kanu is a rice farmer from the Masimera chiefdom in Sierra Leone. Thanks to his participation in WFP’s rice farming project he has doubled his yields in the last two harvests and has been able to build himself a house from the profits. The project – funded by the Government of Japan – provides rural families with the tools and techniques to better cultivate the land around their villages. Rice production in the whole area has shot up by 186 percent, making Usman’s experience just one of many success stories. As harvest season approaches this year, farmers are hoping for even better results.  Continue reading

Livelihood restoration for Ebola survivors

The Kallons are a brave family. They were all infected by the Ebola virus at the peak of the outbreak in Daru town, 36 miles from Kailahun, the eastern-most district of Sierra Leone. They fought courageously and emerged victorious against the disease. However, they encountered fresh battles from community members; they were stigmatized and rejected by people they thought would rejoice in their recovery from the deadly disease. They were excluded from community activities and branded as the survivors. Continue reading

Pit latrine to combat sanitation concern in Orphanage

The Newton Orphanage got its first improved pit latrine on Thursday, 13 October 2016 since it was established seven years ago in 2010.

Imagine living in a house with at least 20 occupants and that too little girls and boys with no proper basic sanitary facilities such as a toilet.  What is more worrying is the appalling unhygienic conditions that these children are exposed to, every single day. Continue reading

Planting trees for sustainable charcoal production in Sierra Leone

Makolerr village lies in the Koya Chiefdom of the Port Loko District in Sierra Leone, a two-hour drive from the capital Freetown. The district is well known for its charcoal production, which is an important source of livelihood for many of the local communities. It is estimated that 60% of household income in Makolerr is generated from charcoal and firewood production.

The charcoal sector is one of the main contributors to deforestation and land degradation in Sierra Leone. The majority of the rural households prefer charcoal for cooking, because it is affordable and more efficient than fuel wood, as well as easier to use and transport. Even in urban households, some women still prefer to cook on traditional stoves with charcoal, as electricity supplies are unreliable and not many people are used to cooking with gas stoves.

The Port Loko District has already lost large parts of its previous forest cover due to charcoal production. At the present rates, the pressure on Sierra Leone’s forests will increase even further as communities continue to produce more charcoal to meet growing consumer demands. Some charcoal producers specifically target hardwood species of high commercial export value, resulting in an economically inefficient use of forest resources.

In support of the Government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) works with rural communities to establish woodlots for environmentally sustainable production of fast-growing trees for conversion into charcoal. Community-based agroforestry is relatively new approach in Sierra Leone, and is promoted with support from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security.

Saskia Marijnissen, Team Leader of UNDP’s Energy, Environment and Natural Resource Management Cluster, says “the advantages of this approach are that the communities take ownership from the onset, and decisions about which trees or crops to plant are driven by their own needs and preferences, while at the same time integrating scientific knowledge and ensuring environmental sustainability.”

The traditional leader of the Koya Chiefdom, Paramount Chief Bomboli II, was trained as a forester and is his enthusiasm for the community-based agroforestry initiative is contagious. The communities allocated a total of 60 hectares of their land to pilot agroforestry, and have so far planted 24 hectares with seedlings.

As women are actively involved in the charcoal business, both as producers and end-users, they are directly affected by deforestation and land degradation. The project places strong emphasis on women’s empowerment by actively integrating them in decision-making processes and supporting them to improve their livelihoods. At the request of the women, agricultural crops including sweet potatoes, cassava, peanuts, cashew, and oil palms, are mixed with the trees intended for charcoal production so that they will have diversified diets and continuous income.

To ensure ownership and sustainability, the planting of seedlings and maintenance of the agroforestry plots is done with support from existing community groups. Mrs. Hawanatu Kamara, 48, leads the Tamareneh Community Group, which has planted over 13,000 tree seedlings in one of the pilot sites at Makolerr.  “We are happy for this project,” Hawanatu said. “Our voices are heard and our decisions are respected. This is why the entire village is here.”

This is part of UNDP’s work to facilitate environmental sustainability, reinforce and support   livelihoods and empowerment of vulnerable people, especially youth and women.

New midwifes help save lives

The UNFPA-supported School of Midwifery, Makeni (SOMM) of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation held its Graduation and Awards ceremony for 58 professional state certified midwives‬ (Set 4) 2013-2015, at the school’s campus at Masubaon on Saturday, October 31, 2015.

The theme of the event was ‘Strengthening Quality Midwifery Care’.

The UNFPA Country Representative, Dr Bannet Ndyanabangi, described the midwives as the backbone of the Free Health Care Initiative, which targets pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under Five, hence UNFPA has been standing and will continue to stand by them.

‘You are our pillars and true partners in the fight to save mothers and babies lives’, he said.

‘As true pillars, like those of a strong house, you carry other three pillars on your shoulder: family planning, skilled birth attendance and emergency obstetric care needed to save lives’, he added.

‘UNFPA recognises that your tireless effort is a crucial step towards achieving the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals which succeeds the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), he maintained.

He reaffirmed UNFPA’s commitment to continue to support midwifery education, training and practice in the country.

Dr Bannet also urged the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to ensure that the newly certified midwives are posted to areas in need immediately.

Presently, UNFPA supports the school and the National School of Midwifery in Freetown with over 125 new intakes and 149 continuing students in the form of paying their tuition fees and quarterly allowances, providing teaching and learning equipment to the skills lab, and supportive supervision during clinical placement.

UNFPA has also helped to train over 386 midwives, through funding support from CIDA, European Union, United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) and Irish Aid.

The ceremony was chaired by Dr Santigie Sesay who deputised for the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Brima Kargbo.

Increasing farm incomes by 10%

The Smallholder Commercialization Programme – Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (IFAD) is nationwide and focuses on four target groups:

  • smallholder farmers
  • women
  • young people
  • microentrepreneurs/small business operators

The objective of the programme is to empower the rural poor to increase their food security and incomes on a sustainable basis. Specifically, it aims to:

  • reduce the gap between national rice production and demand (70,000 metric tons)
  • increase farm incomes by 10 per cent for direct beneficiaries

It will also focus on:

  • Smallholder agricultural commercialization
  • small-scale irrigation development
  • access to rural finance
  • coordination and management

Mobile money “better than cash”

The Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) International Growth Centre (IGC) has ended a three-day West African Sub-regional workshop on mobile financial services on Wednesday, March 16.

The workshop aimed at finding ways of integrating the marginalised and poor people in mobile financial services and lesson learning from other African countries. The meeting fostered peer-to-peer learning and sharing experiences from other sub-Saharan African countries and included delegates from East Africa, Southern Africa and West Africa: Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda.

According to the IGC, West Africa in general and Sierra Leone in particular are far behind its African counterparts in mobile financial services and the conference seeks to, inter alai, identify areas for reforms to existing policies and regulations and map out potential areas of further research that would promote the optimal use of financial inclusion in Sierra Leone. Only 20% of Sierra Leoneans have bank accounts and over 70% of those are people in the provincial areas.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Foday L. Mansaray said that as a native of the largest but one of the remotest districts in Sierra Leone, he knows very well what it means for rural folks not to have access to financial services.

“In the rural areas, people have to travel long distances from their homes to collect remittances and this represents a significant cost in addition to the required fees,” said Mr. Mansaray adding, “The farthest village to Kabala, (the district capital), where the nearest bank is located is 110 miles away. Meaning that people like teachers who have to travel long distances to collect their salaries end up losing almost half of their income just to access the only bank in the district.”

UNDP Sierra Leone Country Director, Mr. Sudipto Mukerjee said,

“this convening is a great opportunity to identify necessary policy and regulatory reforms and also potential partnerships to not only integrate excluded and marginalized groups into the formal economy but also to ensure that they contribute towards financing for sustainable economic development in one of the least banked regions of the world.”

Globally, financial sector policymakers recognize the game-changing potential of digital financial inclusion. Specifically, regulators are increasingly recognising the major role that non-bank providers of mobile money services can play in fostering financial inclusion and, as such, are introducing more enabling regulatory frameworks that allow both banks and non-banks to provide mobile money services in a sustainable way. This workshop contributes to the ongoing work by the G20 and global financial regulators to prepare the standard-setting world for both the risks and the rewards of the digitization of financial services.

Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone, Mr. Momodu L. Kargbo, who was recently announced as the new Minister of Finance and Economic Development explained that the use of digital financial services by formerly excluded customers brings lot of benefits, even if with some risks involved. Some of the risks are new while others, although well known, may take on different dimensions in the financial inclusion context he said, adding that

“Together we have the power to fundamentally transform the economics of delivering financial services to those who need it most, allowing them to save, send kids to school, afford malaria medicine or upgrade their house with a tin roof or a toilet.”

Day 1, the workshop focused on lessons from East and Southern Africa for central bank delegates from the West African countries that are part of the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ). On Day 2 of the workshop focused on country-specific strategies, benefiting from experience and inputs from countries such as Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria. The final day of the workshop focused on regional cooperation and integration.

UNDP and UNCDF’s support to this event is part of the West African Digital Financial Inclusion Programme for Fragile States 2016 – 2019.

For more information, please contact
Tenzin Keyzom Ngodup
Regional Technical Specialist: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone
tenzin.ngodup@uncdf.org

 

Early warning system will identify risk of food insecurity

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) with support from Irish Aid on Friday 20th May, 2016 handed over office equipment to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFF) to be distributed to district networks across the country to enable them generate their reports on timely basis.
The items are to be distributed among thirteen districts networks in the country under the National Early Warning System (NEWS). Each district will have a full set desktop computer, printer, cabinet, table and a chair for the proper functioning of the NEWS secretariats.
The NEWS project among other things aims to provide timely and reliable information to enable government, development partners and the affected population to take effective action to preventing or reducing food and nutrition security risk and prepare for effective response. The project has trained District Rapid Response Teams across the country using multi-sectorial approach where by actors relevant to food and nutrition security are part of the networks.

Partnership in promoting nutrition and food security

The FAO Representative (a.i) David Mwesigwa expressed the satisfaction of the organization to collaborate with MAFFS to establish networks across the country to enable food and nutrition security activities be implemented at decentralized level.

“The handing over of the office equipment is a symbolism to show that there are lots of activities ongoing and more are on the pipeline in our effort to promote nutrition and food security”, Mr. Mwesigwa stated.

He noted that the equipment are startup kits to enable the district networks carry out their operations effectively. He encouraged the district councils to take ownership of the process to ensure sustainable even after the end of donor support.
The representative of Irish Aid, Eimear Murphy also expressed delight on behalf of her organization for being part of a process gearing towards the promotion of nutrition and food security. She encouraged the district networks to utilize the equipment for the required purposes as they will be monitoring their operations from time to time.
Receiving the equipment on behalf of the district networks, the National Project Coordinator and Deputy Director of Planning Evaluation Monitoring and Statistics Division in MAFFS, Mohamed Ajuba Sheriff acknowledged that the office equipment are very essential to the operations of the district networks which among other things are to collect and disseminate vital information on food and nutrition security trends in a timely manner to mitigate emergencies.

“The NEWS activities are at the centre of our ministry’s operations as the data collected helps the government in proper planning and responses”.

He is optimistic that the equipment will greatly help the district networks in the proper collection and analysis of data.

Priorities of the NEWS project

The NEWS project mainly focuses on establishing a functional technical team of national and district level human resources; developing tools for collection, analysis and dissemination of vital early warning information for timely response to food and nutrition insecurity in a targeted manner; contributing to the generation of the body of knowledge on local perceptions and dynamics of food and nutrition insecurity in Sierra Leone to improve programming and decision making; and developing a NEWS structure that is capable of collecting, analyzing and utilizing the information generated by the Early Warning System to key decision makers and the general population at national and sub-national levels to ensure timely response to address identified risks to food and nutrition security.
The project has trained 143 government staff (11 from each district) on data collection, analysis and report writing skills to enable them monitor trigger indicators of Food and Nutrition Security at district level. The equipment will greatly ease their operations.
Contact: Keifa.Jaward@fao.org

IMF reviews Sierra Leone

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission led by John Wakeman-Linn visited Freetown during March 15–29, 2016 to conduct the fifth review under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) and hold the 2016 Article IV consultation discussions.

At the conclusion of the visit, Mr. Wakeman-Linn issued the following statement:

Sierra Leone’s economy is recovering from the twin shocks of the Ebola virus epidemic and the halt in iron-ore mining. Economic momentum is building again, and GDP is expected to grow by 4.3 percent this year from a contraction of 21 percent in 2015. The improvement reflects the pick-up in economic activities following the end of Ebola, and the resumption of iron ore mining early this year. Inflation remained stable at 8.5 percent in 2015, but a small up-tick is expected in 2016 due to the depreciation of the Leone.

Read more on IMF´s website