FREETOWN, October 20, 2010 – In Sierra Leone’s Koinadugu district, farmers will be able to store their crops and sell them at a better price, thanks to better facilities and support from the World Bank. Many of them still suffer the impacts of the country’s 11-year war and are disabled, widowed or unemployed. The International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, is bringing new opportunities to the hardest hit areas of Sierra Leone.
Koinadugu in the north is the largest and one of the poorest districts. Two IDA-funded projects, the Rural and Private Sector Development Project and the Cash for Work component of the Youth Employment Project, are reviving the district’s farmers and helping those impacted by the war.
Members of Koinadugu’s Vegetable Women Farmers Cooperative are largely war widows and bread-winning single mothers. In the past, these women were unable to properly store their harvest and would sell their vegetables at low price out of fear they would perish. With support from IDA’s Rural and Private Sector Development Project, they are now building a vegetable preservation cold storage facility.
Haja Sondu Marrah heads the cooperative and explained that the women are dependent on earning money from vegetables sales to send their children to school and pay medical bills.
“Now that we are constructing our own cold storage facility to preserve the carrots, tomatoes, beans, lettuce, pepper, cabbage, radish, cucumbers, onions, etc. that we grow, our bargaining position is definitely going to get stronger. We will now make the right profits that our efforts deserve,” Marrah said.
The Rural and Private Sector Development Project reaches farmers throughout the Koinadugu district like Samuel Sesay who leads the association of disabled farmers.
“The project is liberating us from the disadvantaged situation when we used to sell our harvested grains at give-away prices during times of abundance because we had no place to dry them, no means to mill them and nowhere to store them,” Sesay said. “Now we are building our own drying floor, grain store and rice milling facility with the help of IDA. This will enable us sell to buyers at real market prices during times of high demand.”
Employing Koinadugu’s youth
One of the largest post-conflict issues in Sierra Leone is its high youth unemployment rate, which has impacts on both economic growth and political stability. An absence of job opportunities and education for youth were core problems leading to Sierra Leone’s war, according to the World Bank study conducted with support from IDA.
In Koinadugu, Nenneh Umu Mackie benefits from IDA’s Cash for Work project aimed at employing youth. Mackie heads an association of over 1,500 youth farmers and said the program for provided positive opportunities for self employment.
"We couldn't have imagined what else we would have resorted to if we had not been supported to get self employed to grow and sell our own crops as a result of the cash-for-work project funded by IDA through the National Commission for Social Action. The alternative to our current employment could have likely been violence and crime,” Mackie said.
The World Bank invested US$4 million in the Cash for Work Project and recently contributed an additional $10 million of its Youth Employment Project (YES) to Cash for Work.