As of May 26, there have been 754 confirmed coronavirus cases and 44 deaths due to COVID-19 in Sierra Leone, but the impact of the global pandemic in the country has been far worse than the numbers suggest.
Businesses have been forced to close, and as during the tragic Ebola outbreak in 2014, untold thousands are out of work and families are going hungry.
For FHDO, and the thousands of children, families and seniors they provide critical food support to, particularly now, our sustainable solution approach, such as providing financial assistance two years ago for its poultry project which provides hard-to-get fresh chicken to low-income Sierra Leoneans, while generating revenue to support FHDO programs.
In addition, for the past several years, thanks to our supporters, we have provided grant assistance to FHDO to enable it to help rural farmers, primarily women, get the most out of their small tracks of land using best gardening practices and distributing seeds and gardening tools.
In these times we pray that the outbreak in that country, and all the other African countries where the coronavirus is making inroads, does not spread more widely causing the tens of thousands deaths we have seen in our very own country and elsewhere around the world in recent weeks.
The Rural Youth Development Organization of Sierra Leone (RYDO-SL) was established in 1996 “to transform and revitalize the lives of the marginalized and oppressed populations in the communities” of the impoverished country in several ways, including agriculture.
Its agricultural-related programs include food and economic crop production but to do that on a large scale requires modern farming equipment such as tractors, a capital expense that RYDO-SL simply cannot afford despite the long-range benefits.
But thanks to our partners Arms Around Africa and the Royer Family Charitable Foundation, particularly Kenneth Royer and Steve Herman, a Ford Powerstar SL 7740, 12-speed, row-crop tractor and accessories, is on the way to Sierra Leone, along with four plows disks, thrasher, hummer mills, drying floor, and other farming equipment.
The Royer Family Charitable Foundation strives to provide support for basic needs of life and health while encouraging long-term self-sufficiency. This aligns directly with our goals and through our shared mission of delivering a tractor to RYDO-SL, both of those objectives are being met.
Bread and Water for Africa® Executive Director Beth Tessema recently returned from an extended visit to Kenya to meet with Phyllis Keino, our international spokesperson and founder and director of the Lewa Children’s Home, to evaluate its progress and conduct a needs assessment.
From there Beth visited Uganda where she evaluated forming potential new partnerships with children’s homes and brought Phyllis with her “because she knows how children’s homes should be managed and can quickly evaluate whether there is a good standard of care at a children’s home.”
While she was in the country, she also visited our current partner Bega kwa Bega (Shoulder to Shoulder) which Bread and Water for Africa® has worked with to support its education program through the donation of books.
In the past two years, Bread and Water for Africa® has provided 44,000 books to Bega kwa Bega which distributed them to 120 impoverished rural schools benefiting more than 15,000 students.
In addition, Beth visited its organic farming training center and the farm manager who is very well educated in organic farming methods and is a strong advocate for food sufficiency at both the family and community levels.
Beth came away very impressed in the training center, which is used by Makerere University, one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in all of Africa, as an organic farming internship facility.
And she was equally impressed with the model farming sites she visited where she met farmers who are being trained in the best ways to make use of their very small plots of land utilizing every spot possible and learning to plant and harvest throughout the year using crop rotation among other things.
“The Bega kwa Bega program is a great example of how food self-sustainability at a grassroots level benefits family and, eventually, whole communities,” Beth commented. “It is always true that when every family’s needs are met at the grassroots level, the whole community changes.”
It is with great relief that we are pleased to report good news on the agriculture front from Sierra Leone that the 2019 planting season started on time!
Bread and Water for Africa® has long supported the agricultural operations of our partner in the country, Faith Healing Development Organization (FHDO), particularly its rice farm, so it was especially nice to hear from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations that: “Following a timely onset of seasonal rains, planting of paddy rice, to be harvested from September, started in 2019.”
Rice is the staple food in Sierra Leone and after years of disappointing harvests due to poor rains, it is good to know that the weather is cooperating with the farmers this year.
However, that does not mean that there still are not concerns. The FAO also reported that “despite the overall favorable food security conditions, some vulnerable households still need external food assistance.”
According to the FAO, “pockets of poverty remain in the country,” citing an analysis that 124,000 people will be in need of food assistance until September.
But thanks to the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa®, FHDO is expecting a bumper harvest of rice this fall which will go to feed thousands of hungry Sierra Leoneans who are most in need in the impoverished country.