Sierra Leone YMCA addresses regional food security

Source: Christine Davis – Africa Alliance of YMCA’s Volunteer.

With renewed international investment in African development, food security has become a core component of Africa's social advancement. Food security, in respect to food availability, access and adequacy, remains one of the biggest challenges facing infrastructure development and resource roll-out in Africa.

The root cause of food insecurity in Africa is the widespread penetration of the poverty resulting from HIV/AIDS, civil war, political corruption, poor governance, ongoing drought and famine and an inability to create farming structures independent of weather. In addition, these same conditions serve to undermine initiatives that prove successful in developed countries.

According to researchers from the American Agricultural Economists Association, over 70% of Africa's food insecure population live in the rural areas, while the remaining 30% consist of the urban and landless poor. Initiatives then to increase food security in Africa must ensure development of agricultural profitability of small-holder farmers while also providing necessary resources to overcome the societal causes of poverty.

The Sierra Leone YMCA's Agriculture project, located in Tikonko in Southern Sierra Leone, was created with the intention of addressing the food insecurity caused by Sierra Leone's decade long civil war by improving on the existing farming infrastructure in the region. Currently, 350 beneficiaries actively participate in the cultivation, harvesting and sales of clued rice (cereal), cassava and sweet potato. Of these beneficiaries, 80% are youth and 32% are female, while most are illiterate. As Amara Lamin, Youth Leader of the Tikonko Young Farmers Association and a beneficiary of the project, explains, “During the civil war, there was a drastic reduction in our seasonal earning from our resource limited agricultural activities as we lost our breeding stock of crops, fowls and domesticated animals. This had a long-lasting effect on our well-being and inflicted unwarranted suffering on our dependants”.

According to project manager, John Moifula the implementation of the project has resulted in an increase in agricultural productivity because of the improved availability of resources and the transfer of knowledge on the latest agricultural techniques. In addition, the improved agricultural access has led to an improved nutritional and socio-economic status of beneficiaries and their dependants.

As Morie Macavoray, a project beneficiary expresses, “I am very thankful to the YMCA Agricultural Project that has helped me to access improved planting materials and adopt improved agricultural techniques. My earning per seasonal production seems to be increasing as we now pay fees for school going children”.

Going forward, John Moifula believes overall food security in the region would improve through government interventions that “advocate the provision of farm equipment and seeds at appropriate times of planting and the inclusion of agriculture in the development plan of all Local Councils in Sierra Leone.” In addition, to ensure long-term food security, the Sierra Leone YMCA plans to embark on: Agro Processing (the conversation of agricultural products into other market demanded commodities); plant permanent “tree crops”; and transfer agricultural knowledge to other YMCA's in the region in the hopes of developing agriculture as an income generating activity for other branches.

Caption: Sierra Leone YMCA National Chairman, Siaka Charles, Deputy National Chairman Sahr Lebbie, National Treasurer, Ethelbert Tejan and farm assistant Morie Lamin, showcasing the Cassava Tubers used to produce the Gari cereal.

Rider: This article was originally published for the Africa Alliance of YMCA's Web Alerts.