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Sierra Leone: agricultural rehabilitation: a precondition for peace

23-10-1996 News Release 96/42

Although peace talks between the Sierra Leone government and the United Revolutionary Front have not yet yielded any definite results, the February 1966 cease-fire remains officially in effect. With the relative calm of the last few months, some displaced people and refugees have gradually been returning to their villages in the east of the country, which had been almost entirely depopulated by the fighting. More than 15,000 of the 180,000 people receiving ICRC assistance are former Sierra Leonean refugees who recently returned from Guinea or Liberia.

To meet the needs of the civilian population during the rainy season, which is the most critical time of year from the nutritional viewpoint, the ICRC has distributed some 4,000 tonnes of food over the last six months. It also provided farmers with 1,200 tonnes of rice and groundnut seed and 45,000 hoes so that they could begin to plant crops again. The harvest has already begun, and it should enable the population to regain a measure of self-sufficiency in terms of food. According to Peter

Klinck, an ICRC agricultural engineer, agricultural rehabilitation cannot be completed in a single year, so a second seed distribution will take place in 1997. In addition, 24,000 families will receive tomato, onion, eggplant, pepper, cucumber and okra seed for their vegetable gardens next month. 

Alongside its activities to promote nutritional rehabilitation, the ICRC is providing support for health centres and helping to repair water supply systems in the east of the country. It also visits persons detained in connection with the conflict and runs a network for the exchange of family messages between refugees abroad and their relatives i n Sierra Leone.