A three-day field trip took me to the Northwest of Sierra Leone, where I visited communities to learn about the impact of an EU-funded project by engaging directly with programme participants to hear their stories.
The three-year long EU project, currently entering its 2nd year, aims to support poverty reduction and the attainment of sustainable development goals in Sierra Leone. The specific objective of the programme is to strengthen the voice and influence of vulnerable and marginalised women in local governance and agricultural development processes through a more developed civil society. A vast array of interventions are currently implemented by six local partner organisations (CARL2, CDHR, KADDRO, ABC-D, AAD-SL and WOFHRAD). In order to measure the impacts of the project I visited five communities across Port Loko, Kambia and Bombali districts to collect case studies.
Despite the heavy rains and treacherous road conditions Hassan, one of the drivers employed by Trócaire in Sierra Leone looks confident as he carefully navigates through narrow unpaved roads characterised by endless puddles surrounded by green, lush vegetation. Credit ought to be given where it is due, Hassan drove safely the 4x4 to every community visited, and back home.
Across districts, the majority of community members depend on the food they grow. However many of the farmers lament the challenges that affects adversely agricultural productivity. As part of the intervention, farmers have been supplied with various tools for farming as well as a greater selection of seeds for growing different vegetables that are not only nutritious but also enhance households’ dietary diversity.
Additionally, training is provided on farming techniques including pest control and soil fertilising, using locally made natural fertilisers. This has led to an increase in production, and allowed farmers to sell on the surplus. For example, members of the Malai community in Bombali used the surplus to invest in a petrol water pump, which has greatly enhanced the irrigation of crops. Alpha Karim Kamara, one of the community members says ‘We bought the water pump together, everyone in the village can use it for free, just have to supply their own petrol.’
Women in the Rogbet community, located in Port Loko District told me about the benefits of the Living Peace Methodology (LPM), which aims to reduce violence and abuse within the household whilst promoting healthy relationships between its members. Partners’ staff facilitate discussions between women alone to allow them to openly talk about their experiences.
Men are also engaged in mixed discussions, and although more work needs to be done, several male community members have expressed their gratefulness for the intervention. 35yo Dauda Kamara, who lives with his wife and two small children in Robat village in Kambia District admits openly:
‘Before I used to quarrel with my wife about many things. But when I participated in the discussions my initial thoughts were positive and I changed. Now we make decisions together instead of arguing, and it feels good.’
On the last day of the trip I met with Rebecca, Yeanor and Dora, three young women living in Bumban village in Bombali District. They recounted how life has changed since interventions began, citing participation in literacy and numeracy classes, public speaking training and also personal hygiene awareness sessions. Upon asking what the best part of the intervention is so far, Rebecca says without hesitation ‘Learning about our rights as women has really helped us a lot gaining confidence in every facet of our lives. We now know our rights and we stand strong.’
Zita Nazha is an EU Aid volunteer working with Trócaire in Sierra Leone as part of the REACH initiative, co-funded by the European Union.
Learning about our rights as women has really helped us a lot gaining confidence in every facet of our lives. We now know our rights and we stand strong.