By Rugiatu Favour Kanu
There is hunger in the land. What can we do to address it?
Some 4.7 million Sierra Leoneans face food insecurity, according to the 2020 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (CFSVA). The level of severe food insecurity is higher among female-headed households, about 13%, compared to male-headed ones, which is 11%. Hunger has increased in recent times due to rising food prices, which spiked across West Africa in early 2020 because of Covid-19.
As a result, Sierra Leone was ranked 106th out of the 116 countries in the 2021 Global Hunger Index. In other words, we are only better than 10 countries.
The good news, though, is that many organizations have taken action to address food insecurity and malnutrition in Sierra Leone. For example, in 2018, Action Against Hunger assisted 8,000 people with food security programs to address malnutrition among children and increase dietary diversity.
Also, the World Food Program (WFP), UNICEF and the government are distributing nutrient-dense food to young children and mothers to reduce child malnutrition.
The WFP has also stepped up interventions across Sierra Leone, providing food to children in schools and supporting smallholder farmers. In May 2020, the organisation distributed over 47 metric tons of food assistance to more than 17,000 people. It also transported 900 metric tons of improved seed rice to smallholder farmers, and provided cash payments to more than 1,000 farming households—all in a bid to fight hunger.
As support pours in from overseas, what can we do locally as a people and government? I think the time to act— and act seriously— is now.
Our land is vast and fertile. The weather is good: year in and year out, we have rains. Our only way out is to embrace farming as a government and as a people.
Yes, we have had irregular rainfall, which has significantly reduced rice production in recent years, as rice remains our staple food, but piecemeal agricultural production is no longer sufficient to meet the needs of our population.
In 2018, the majority of rice-growing households produced only half as much rice as they expected. There is an urgent need to increase the number of rice-growing households across the country.
The sick among us need food. Our forefathers were food sufficient even without mechanised farming. They did not import food. They ate what they grew.
We should not only prioritize agriculture but embrace it as our sure-bet tool to eradicate hunger and, by extension, poverty. Imagine if every family has one person who is into farming and everyone in that family supports that person to farm what they eat. Would we cry for food?
The government can also look into getting the youth involved in agriculture?
How about establishing youth farms in every district? What if our universities offering agriculture and its related courses cite their campuses where the farms are located and provide them with relevant operational tools?
Ministry of agriculture: what programs and support do you have for youths who are into farming? Supposing we invest in programs that increase youth involvement in agricultural value chain— clearing, cultivation, seedlings, planting, fumigation, production, branding, storage and marketing—from the farm to the fork. It’s time to move from audio farming to farming to and feeding and living.
To the youths, what are we waiting for?
Are you still waiting to sit in air-conditioned offices and go home hungry or watch your family go to bed hungry?
Agriculture, especially farming, is for everyone; it is our only left hope of eradicating hunger and malnutrition. We have tried mining, and invested heavily in health and education, but when are we trying agriculture? Many more of us must go to the farms. We can do it.
Fighting hunger is everyone’s business. Farming will increase food security and sufficiency, lower food prices, create employment, and grow wealth.
What are you waiting for? Get on board!