News from our Gappers in Kenema, Sierra Leone
Today we were going to visit one of the communities who had taken part in a Disaster Risk Reduction project . Edward Musa, from Caritas Kenema gave us the following briefing on the village before we set out.
Setting the context, he told us there were 2 issues – agricultural support and environmental protection. Sierra Leone has 2 seasons the dry season from November to May and the wet season from June to October. In the dry season, strong winds can take roofs off buildings; there is a risk of fires caused by embers from cooking, which destroys farm crops. Then there is flooding caused by heavy rains, which erodes the soil from the hills and the banks of streams overflow which causes flooding to homes in low lying areas, sometimes even causing deaths of young children.
Caritas Kenema began working with the community following awareness raising and training given to its staff in Disaster Risk Reduction from CAFOD. When funds were available work began in 5 communities; Dia Kabaibo, which we would visit today, the others are Tissor, Mano Junction, Kondibotihun and finally Sukudu, being the furthest away in Kono district. They held workshops with the communities to identify the risks they were facing.
The communities told them of heavy winds and during the dry season water levels in the streams dropping. They are basically crop farmers and they had been felling trees to make charcoal, which they were selling, so the risks of flooding and erosion was prevalent and when winds blow, without the shelter of the trees – their homes were vulnerable. Also when the water levels drop, they had no drinking water.
Caritas Kenema initially provided food and seeds and tools to develop Inland Valley Swamps (IVS) where they can grow staple crops, such as rice which they cultivate every season.
Upland it is harder to grow crops because of the lack of tree shelter and winds, so this method takes longer. Caritas have engaged them in tree planting – it is a test case and over time they are trying to bring back the forest. They are cultivating economic trees such as Cashew Nuts. There are 9 acres of plantation in the north of the country, so the community gave 4 acres where they are planting these trees. Caritas also trained a task force to monitor the environmental conditions and give warnings to communities to ensure their safety. Also they have developed community sanitation and have a designated fire belt around the community, so if there is a fire their homes are not threatened.
A Savings and Internal Lending Development had also been set up with initial funding from Caritas Kenema, where the community pay in for between six months and one year and the communities add to it. We were very excited as we set out to visit the community and see the work in the village for ourselves.