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Sierra Leone: Food is the first step

07-03-2002

The conflict in Sierra Leone has had a devastating impact on women and severely affected their ability to earn a living. Together with the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society and the Ministry of Agriculture, the ICRC is helping the most vulnerable among them to regain their confidence as income earners for entire families.

Some 40 women are currently attending a community-based vegetable production workshop in Waterloo, north of Freetown. The programme targets various women's groups (war widows, displaced persons and returnees) and provides them with local and imported vegetable seed, farming tools and training in vegetable cultivation. Each group must select two or three members to attend the courses, which are held in different locations. " We have taken a train-the-trainers approach, " said Tejan Jalloh, a local Red Cross agronomist. " The participants will pass on the skills they have learned to the other members of their groups. "

A total of 625 groups representing nearly 40,000 women benefit directly from the programme. In the coming months, a similar programme will be launched for 300 such groups in Northern Province.

" Many Sierra Leonean women are widows and cannot afford to send all their children to school " , said Ya Alimamy, one of the women who attended the course. " Improving production methods will increase their income while providing them with better-quality food and seed. "