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Sierra Leone: ICRC finishes distributing aid to needy farmers

28-06-2002 News Release 02/26

Over the past two months the ICRC has successfully carried out a massive distribution of seed, farm tools and other items essential for the survival of over 40,000 vulnerable farming families in the Kono and Kailahun districts of eastern Sierra Leone. Working in cooperation with the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society, the ICRC began planning this operation in June 2001. The objective was to boost the limited resources of farmers returning to their homes now that the fighting has ended, and provide them with the means to resume food production as soon as possible.

" Since we returned to our devastated homes, this is the first time we have been helped by a humanitarian organization " were the grateful words of acting section chief Tamba Nyandemo of Dangbaidu, in Sandor chiefdom in the Kono district. At every distribution site, section chiefs or village headmen had to endorse their own people before they joined the queue.

Some 20,000 families in Kailahun district and nearly 23,000 in Kono received the farming package consisting of 20 kg of upland seed-rice, 20 kg of inland valley swamp seed-rice, 10 kg of groundnut seed and one large hoe. In all, over 700 tonnes of upland rice, 700 tonnes of swamp rice and over 300 tonnes of groundnut seed were distributed and sown in six chiefdoms of Kailahun district and seven of Kono. In addition to the seed and the farm tools, 13,383 of the poorest families in Kailahun and 11,810 in Kono also received tarpaulins, blankets, mats, kitchen sets, buckets, mosquito nets, mugs, soap, and used clothes.

The registration of beneficiaries was carried out by community representatives, who were selected in cooperation with section chiefs. The s eed and tools were distributed on a priority basis to families who had returned to the area after the previous planting season; the other items were given to the neediest.

The ICRC worked in close cooperation with the Sierra Leonean agriculture ministry and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to procure seed meeting the ministry's standards. In addition, an agreement was reached with the World Food Programme to provide beneficiaries with one-month food rations to ensure that the seed was planted and not eaten. This distribution, which was the largest ever undertaken in eastern Sierra Leone, should help meet the ICRC's 2002 objective of reducing the suffering of the most vulnerable people.