By Tamba Borbor
Welthungerhilfe (WHH) with support from Global Environment Facility (GEF), Manor River Union (MRU), National Protected Area Agency (NPPA) and IUCN on Wednesday 28th and 29th April 2021, during the implementation of the Ecosystem Conservation and Water Resource Management Project, took over 20 Farmers from Pujehun District to Kailahun District, on a farming exchange visit and also organized training workshop to impart more skill on farmers on Cocoa and economical fruit trees production.
George Muigai, Project Manager Welthungerhilfe, whilst giving an overview of the project, said that Welthungerhilfe is one of Germany’s biggest private organizations for development and humanitarian aid with the vision of ensuring that people are free from hunger and poverty.
He said the Ecosystem Conservation and Water Resource Management Project is funded by (GEF), through the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to the government of Sierra Leone – the National Protected Area Agency (NPPA).
Georg Muigai said the project is being implemented in the four Mano River Union countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast. He further said that Welthungerhilfe is in partnership with NPPA to implement the project in three Districts in Sierra Leone: Kenema, Pujehun and Kailahun Districts, which are mainly located along the Gola rainforest belt.
George Muigai said the project provided support to protect against threats posed by climate change, deforestation caused by logging, Mining, charcoal burning, game hunting and wild fire and unsustainable agricultural system, through the encroachment of the forest by communities, establishment of diverse crop production and improvement of agricultural activities in the production areas.
He ended by saying that Sierra Leone stands to benefit so much from this project, adding that communities will be informed on the importance of natural resources and regaining the original state of the destroyed forest line.
Mustapha O Sheriff, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer WHH, said they decided targeted Pujehun District farmers to help them to engage in Agro foresting system, wherein they can have different crops in one garden and still have a very good production, based on proper management system, in order to prevent deforestation.
He stated that the government of Sierra Leone has set out regulations limiting the activities of communities along the Gola rainforest belt. This, he said, will affect their livelihood, considering the fact that their main source of income comes from their forest activities.
He said the project implemented by WHH will support farmers to plant economic fruits and indigenous trees as a sustainable source of income generation, coupled with support in technical training of farmers in good Agricultural Practices (GAP) for sustainable Agricultural enhancement.
Sheriff stated that the Gola rainforest edge communities, especially Pujehun District, in the Makpele and Barri Chiefdoms, have mostly depended on forest products and oil palm farming, which has made little gains over the years, but the new Farming from WHH will help them to invest in economic trees like cocoa and timber trees with fruit trees, which are in less practice in these regions, even though these trees have proven to be a major economic source for kailahun and Kenema Districts, with a high yield in production rate, especially for cocoa, but Pujehun District remains yet to practice climate sensitive agriculture, especially in the Gola forest region, which has been heavily hindered by unproductive agricultural activities, Mustapha said.
Tamba Gbondo, Kailahun District Coordinator (SLE 1087) WHH, who served as the lead trainer, said he has organized a farm exchange visit for farmers from Pujehun district to Kailahun, through the support of GEF and NPAA, to make farmers knowledgeable in cocoa production and management in terms of rehabilitation and good agricultural practices.
This, he furthered, gives them the opportunity to visit well established cocoa product sites in Kailahun District, serving as essential good training and learning practical experiences during the visit.
He stated that training workshop at the WHH office in Kenema was organized for the training of farmers, plus a participatory training approach with a question and answer session on key training topics from nursery establishment, management throughout planting and rehabilitation and quality processing, which eventually gives them the ability and confidence to pass on the knowledge to other farmers who do not have the opportunity.
One of the beneficiaries, Fatmata Koroma, said the training is a lifetime opportunity given to them by WHH, but however asked for more women to be considered in other projects.
“we felt lost, marginalized when the government asks us to stay away from the forest, because we thought that is our only means of survival, but with this new skills and support given to us by WHH on farming , we are now poise to live a better life than before.”
Alhaja Bockrie said he has been in cocoa production for a little over five years now, but have not been realizing much, because of missing steps from the Nursing to the harvesting period. He however said that he has learnt so much from this important training organized by WHH. He thanked WHH and requested for regular training.