Rural Sierra Leone is characterized by hills covered with fruit farms, vegetable gardens, plantations of cocoa and coffee, and rice swamps. Subsistence farming is the most common way of life, meaning that farming is not only deep rooted heritage but the key activity which supplies families with the food needed to survive. Inadequate rains, poor planting techniques, sickness which prevents a family from tending to their fields, and more can all result in malnourishment and the loss of income from cash crops. It is estimated that the villages of Jokibu, Foindu, and Pujehun live at a level of only 75% food self-sufficiency. Investment in agriculture is then investment in people’s livelihoods as well as their possible source of income. When extreme poverty persists, farmers are forced to sell their produce at or below market value for immediate cash. With careful planning and investment, agricultural yields can increase as well as farmers’ abilities to receive better prices for their produce resulting in healthier people with surplus income.
Recognizing that increasing agricultural yields is central to OneVillage Partners’ success, there are numerous activities which must occur. As agricultural yields increase, villagers will 1) have increased quantity for food consumption as well as increased nutrition and 2) have greater quantities for sale thereby increasing household income.
Currently, OneVillage employs 3 Agricultural Experts, one per village, to build farmer capacity with respect to proven farming techniques. These individuals have either formal training in agriculture or are successful farmers themselves. They hold farmer training sessions on identified drying and fermentation techniques as well as oversee the development of additional swamp farms. OneVillage has also identified the use of appropriate technology to save time and labor in agricultural and food related areas. Women in particular benefit from this project. As such, SLPP has provided villages with ground nut grinder and, when needed, financial support to address broken rice milling machines.
Two additional projects are now in the beginning phases. The first is the use of urine fertilizers to increase crop yield. OneVillage is currently exploring cultural acceptance of urine separation as fertilizer. Using a system of hoses and jars, urine is diluted with water to create a nitrogen rich fertilizer. Approximately 10 households are testing this method across the 3 villages and initial evidence shows a 50% increase in crop yield. The second is a designated animal area titled ‘Animal Farm’. OneVillage hopes to strengthen the quality and quantity of livestock. Livestock provides villagers with diversified diets which include meat, eggs, and milk. The animal farms, in their conceptual form, are enclosures outside of each village. Villagers would place their livestock on the farm to be cared for by trained livestock handlers. These projects have beneficial spillover effects to Water & Sanitation.
Throughout these activities, OneVillage will endorse: the establishment of surplus rice yields by emphasizing swamp development over upland slash & burn; use of nurseries, storage drums, and appropriate technology to increase yields of palm oil, groundnut and other largely consumed crops; and training for increased yield, higher quality product, adding value, and maximizing sale price of cash crops. Moreover, the vast majority of agricultural activities are supported through access to credit under Income Generation.