Good Food

Good Food: Farming in Bonthe District

Bonthe District is made up of a number of small islands (and part of the mainland) a few miles off the south-west coast of Sierra Leone. The largest of these, Sherbro Island, is about the size of the Isle of Man (or half as big again as the Isle of Wight). Dependent on a mixture of farming and fishing, people in this district suffer worse than anyone else in the country from food shortages – most people only have one meal a day. Some of the villages this project are working with are so remote that they can only be reached by boat and have rarely had any support from the outside world.

The main problems people here face are:

  1. Low productivity and not enough variety in the crops grown, leading to seasonal food shortages (as the stored food from one harvest is not enough to last until the next). This particularly affects women.
  2. The food that farmers manage to sell at market (to individuals or to intermediaries) doesn’t fetch a good enough price.
  3. A quarter of families in Bonthe fish, but lack the knowledge and skills to make the most of this resource.
  4. Poor knowledge about nutrition, sanitation and clean water, leading to high levels of illness.
  5. A lack of support structures such as village development committees, which would otherwise be able to spread knowledge, skills and resources.
Seeds and tools
MCSL encourages people to form groups to work together. By giving them seeds and tools to set up joint agricultural initiatives such as this groundnut field they not only earn more but also build up their community - © Annabel Davis

The project will tackle these problems in a number of ways:

  1. Increasing food production and variety by introducing new crops, helping people to grow a wider variety of vegetables, introducing other activities such as bee-keeping.
  2. Helping people (especially women) diversify their sources of income, such as through oil palm and groundnut (peanut) processing and marketing and fish smoking.
  3. Teaching people better farming and fishing techniques, teaching about nutrition and sanitation.
  4. Setting up local support groups and supplying these with good quality seeds, tools, fertilisers, irrigation systems and fishing equipment, as well as processing and marketing facilities and equipment. Using these to pass on training in improved and environment friendly production, processing and marketing techniques.
  5. Other activities will include digging new wells and repairing / rehabilitating existing ones, carrying out road repairs and giving additional training and resources to local health centre staff.

A big impact

  • Directly helping 23,000 people (and indirectly 130,000)
  • 4 year project (started April 2009)
  • Total project £1.6million

A trusted partner

The project is being carried out by the Methodist Church of Sierra Leone (MCSL), who Christian Aid has worked with for more than 20 years. Their mission is to eradicate poverty in Sierra Leone and they are experienced in working in similar situations elsewhere in the country.


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