2013-2016 Project: Improvement of Living Conditions

June 2013 – May 2016

Summary of End-of-Project Report:
“Sustainable Food Security and Improvement in Living Conditions in Pujehun and Bonthe Districts – June 2013 to May 2016
Implementing Partner: Pujehun Youths for Develop (PYD), 1 District Office Road, Pujehun, Sierra Leone
Project Implemented: From 1 June 2013 to 31 May 2016
Co-Funding Agencies: The German Federal Ministry of Economic Development and International Cooperation (BMZ), KNSL e.V., PYD and Target Group
Funding Cost: € 316.403,00

Project Location and Objectives
The project measures were implemented in three Chiefdoms: Sakrim and Yakemo Kpukumu Krim (YKK) in Pujehun District and Kwamebei Krim in Bonthe District. The overall objective of the project was to help bring about sustainable improvements in food security and socio-economic conditions in the project area.

This was to be achieved through empowering disadvantaged/marginalised groups to secure their own livelihoods and by giving fresh impetus to the local economy. For this purpose, the level of crop production was to be increased, and new income opportunities for the target group were to be opened/created. In order to make the achievement of these goals sustainable, crosscutting activities to improve hygiene and sanitary conditions and to promote gender equity for women and girls were included in all Project measures.

Target Groups reached
The Project directly reached the primary target group of 840 resource-poor households (among them 50% female headed) in in 14 villages in Sakrim, YKK and Kwamebei Krim Chiefdoms, whose livelihoods depended on agriculture, petty trading, crafts activities such as construction, carpentry or furniture making, knotting of fishing nets, basket weaving or smithery. Their incomes from those activities didn’t generally exceed €300 per annum. The majority of the beneficiaries couldn’t feed their families through the year. Those of them engaged in enterprising lacked assets or access to the capital required to develop their work activities into viable income-generating micro-enterprises. Among them were poor and marginalised youth, single mothers and/or single-female household heads, war-widows, ex-combatants, and school drop-outs. According to Statistics Sierra Leone, 8 persons is the average household size. Therefore, the project directly targeted 6,720 persons. Through the project, the 840 beneficiaries were (re)organised in farmer groups and/or local micro-finance associations: received training in diverse agricultural and business-related (income-generating) issues; and thereafter they received inputs for their farming or crafts/trade activities through their group leaders.

An additional direct target group were 10,000 men, women and children in 8 out of the 14 project villages that were underserved with safe drinking water and sanitary facilities. 8 hand pump wells were constructed in those villages and hygiene and health awareness and sensitisation programmes were propagated, which directly benefited all households.

In addition, all 18,720 inhabitants of the 14 targeted communities benefited from the project’s gender mainstreaming programme. Activities to promote gender equity brought marked improvement in the situation of women and girls in all 14 villages.

The Project set out to Achieve the following Specific Objectives:

  1. Support the availability of, and access to, sufficient food, all year around for 840 households in Sakrim, YKK and Kwamebei Krim Chiefdoms
  2. Support 300 resource-poor women and youth to access and benefit from micro-finance services
  3. Provide close-by clean drinking water to 10,000 people in 8 villages all year around, and motivate the population to practice good hygiene behaviours
  4. Contribute to reduction in transport constraints in distributing or marketing essential commodities to and within the project region
  5. Strengthen the rights of approx. 10,300 women and girls in 14 villages

Concrete Project Activities included:

  1. Provision of agricultural inputs and tools
  2. Reintroduction of mechanised farming
  3. Facilitation of efficient Agricultural Extension Services (Training & Coaching)
  4. Provision of Start-up Grants for Income Generation
  5. Training in basic business skills
  6. Construction of 8 deep hand tube wells
  7. Investment in a truck to help mitigate transport constraints
  8. Raise Awareness of gender equality and hygiene issues in project communities

The Ebola Epidemic March 2014 to April 2015
The Ebola Virus Disease clearly caused some set-backs in the achievement of the project targets. The goals of food and livelihood security could not be achieved to the extent envisaged. Between March and May 2014, which was the planting season in the project region, the epidemic began to spread out in Sierra Leone. Hence, crop productions in 2014 and 2015 were much lower than expected, particularly due to Government imposed restrictions on movement of people in order to prevent the spread of the epidemic. For the same reasons the microfinance programme (MFP) had to be suspended for some time. And generally, by the peak of the epidemic i.e. from June – December 2014 due to those restraints, marketing of agricultural produce was severely impeded. The number of people infected increased so rapidly during that period that for fear of a further spread of the disease, a complete lock-down was imposed, which prohibited any public gathering. This was a critical impediment for looking after the fields from weeding to harvesting, leading to severe harvest losses.

Other project activities such as the gender and hygiene sensitisation campaigns were also reoriented during the Ebola outbreak. The activists then had to refocus their programmes primarily on the Ebola awareness campaign to help prevent a further spread of the disease. Due to restrictions on human movements, the outreach activities of the project were also affected. The staff, fearing that a prolonged lock-down and disruption of essential supplies and restricted access to the farmers and micro-finance participants would hurt the project, insisted to the health authorities that they needed to continue making their monthly coaching and monitoring visits to the project area. They were allowed to travel, but were subjected to several rigorous Ebola checks as they passed through control points.

Overall Assessment of Project Achievements
Based on a cost-benefit analysis of the project, it has been considered effective by the beneficiaries, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS), Pujehun District Council and the general population in the three Chiefdoms where it was implemented. The objectives fell within the development framework of MAFFS and the Ministry of Development. From the perspectives of MAFFS and the Pujehun District Council, the project achieved the best possible development outcomes by engaging young men and women in agriculture, crafts and enterprising, which was the most obvious response to post-war economic need of the rural people after the long civil war. The project’s activities were highly relevant particularly because they took a community-based approach. All its activities were realised in close cooperation with the MAFFS office in Pujehun, which qualified it as being appropriately designed and took different social groups (ex-combatants, war-affected people, and women) into account as integral players in the rural economy, and viewed rural development as a multi-disciplinary process.
Implementation of the project has generated a rich experience for PYD and its staff in strategies and methodologies for development actions. The staff has gained valuable experience on mitigating rural food insecurity and poverty conditions, which would be useful for further projects.

The project reached the direct target group of 840 resource-poor households (including 420 women) who were organised into farming associations and gained access to viable seeds and agricultural tools, and adopted new agricultural techniques / approaches recommended by the project for planting new crops with high market values as well as improving and conserving the soil and water resources. In particular, all the selected women participants were actively involved in project activities and enjoyed equal opportunities as beneficiaries. Other community members of the project villages also directly and indirectly benefited from the project. Residents in 8 project villages acknowledged that, as a result of the project, beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries alike have used the water wells that have been constructed in their villages.

40-75% of farmers and community leaders and women trained through the project have begun applying good farming, retail trading, hygiene and leadership practices. The findings are confirmed during a visit made to the project area by the Pujehun District Director of Agriculture, who commented at a recent meeting at the PYD office that over 60% of farmers and other stakeholders he had spoken with in Sakrim and YKK were applying best practices on vegetable gardening, post-harvest value addition, cropping calendar and measuring farm sizes. Post-project monitoring results of a joint PYD/KNSL survey in August 2016 among 200 farmers demonstrated the effectiveness and impact of the water wells and microfinance components of the project. For example, all households in Karlie and Saama (100%) have been very satisfied with the project, and in particular, they consider their water wells to be an excellent gift. Many of them appealed to PYD to support neighbouring villages to have safe-drinking water as well; 55-86% of women and youth trained in microfinance management have also been applying the business tools they were taught, including simple form of record keeping (money out-money in).

Furthermore, 60-85% of men, boys, women and girls and community leaders, particularly Chiefs and Imams (who wield traditional authority) openly declared during the impact survey in August that they have been sensitised in the project’s women’s and girls’ rights promotion activities and have begun to show gender awareness in managing their positions. Several women said that discriminatory restrictions of female economic activities and women’s rights to determine how to use their own incomes were being strongly reduced in the project area; their rights to self-determination and decisions over the use of family resources was also improving. At least 48% of women interviewed said they were now in position in their households to co-determine how resources were to be used.

Reaching at least 450 women as direct participants, the project supported the formation of several female-alone and mixed male-female groups and trained, coached and/or guided equal numbers of female and male youth and social leaders on how to develop and manage farm cooperatives and economic groups, extension and business skills building and to some extent in entrepreneurship (including marketing skills). In the course of the project, women were able to play leading roles in farmers’ and MFP associations. During the end of project impact assessment survey in August 2016, two out of three women reported having a greater role in decision making after the training both in farm-related, community-related and family matters. The projects have thus brought about some degree of transformation of gender roles at household and community level. In order to help investments in farm tools/equipment and be able to participate fully in mechanised rice farming in 2016, several women in Sakrim Chiefdom narrated that they formed themselves into groups and started village savings and credit schemes, with the help of PYD. “This is an area where no other organization had established such services”, a female activist in Gombu remarked. Since 2015, in the dry season (usually the growing season), women have been setting up vegetable stalls in project villages, and have been developing and sharing information on how to market their products.

The relevance of the project approach to re-mechanise the cultivation of rice and reintroduce agricultural extension services is obvious when listening to comments from farmers and community leaders who experienced the project. In every community, a huge enthusiasm was observed during the impact assessment survey, underlined by increasing demand by farmers who were not yet trained to also add their voices:

“If someone asks me today who I am, I can introduce myself as a tractor driver and also a tractor mechanic. I am very proud of this status. Working in this project has been my first gainful employ-ment.” (Fatorma, a youth from Saama who was trained by PYD as tractor driver)

“The BMZ project implemented by PYD has touched us in a short period of time than any other programme in the history of our village, Gombu…. This safe-drinking water well (pointing at it) is the first project ever to be realised in our village, and your gender education has reached many households throughout our Chiefdom.“ (youth leader, Gombu during the commissioning ceremony of the hand-pump water well in their village in August 2015)

“This project has led us to perform better as village farmers due to training and proper planning of farming matrix. The extension agents told us to follow our farming calendar and guided us to choose specific soil texture for specific crops, which we never used to do before the intervention. Now we understand that our crops can do better if we chose viable seeds, the right sites and grow our field by the right time.” (32-year old mother of four kids in Massah)

“For the first time my husband and I have been able to send all our children to school. Now, my son is attending St. Paul’s Secondary School and my daughter is at the Holy Rosary Secondary School in Pujehun. Our two younger kids are both attending Primary School at Bengani.” (chairlady of a farmers’ cooperative in Karlie).

However, not every element of the project was implemented without challenges. The remoteness and difficulty of access of the project sites located in wetlands and on a sandy peninsula that has no road link to the main land but can only be reached by boat, caused project management constraints to both the staff and the stakeholders, particularly during rainy seasons. Compared to previous projects on the main land, costs of project administration, monitoring and extension services were higher. The commitment to broad participatory approaches in planning and implementation (participatory rural appraisals (PRAs) and demand-responsive approaches) was widely praised as being appropriate, sensitive, and necessary to obtaining local buy-in. Nonetheless, some elders felt challenged or their authority threatened by the establishment of village hygiene committees, farmers’ cooperatives and MFP groups. An important effort was made through to engage traditional authorities and village elders throughout the process. This was helpful. Still, due to the remoteness of the location, achieving access to markets remained a challenge which PYD has pledged to continue to focus on. Another hurdle that will remain an obstacle for a longer time is the high level of illiteracy among women and youth, which is hampering productive outcome of farming, hygiene sensitisation and MFP training.

The impact assessment survey noted that agriculture, when properly managed, has the potential to create sustainable employment, improve food security and income generation and reduce poverty in the District. Results of interviews and focus group discussions among farms, youth, women and community elders/chiefs indicated that they all (100%) are yearning to raise their competence and efficiency in organic farming, kitchen gardening, mechanical cultivation, animal husbandry and value-added post-harvest processes. Reasons given by respondents why they needed to improve farming efficiencies were mainly about raising income and nutrition levels. Some female respondents, for example those in food processing and marketing felt that their diet at home and food preparation for marketing would also improve as a result of the knowledge and skills they would acquire.

In order to address some of these challenges and assist PYD in fully stabilise the goals of the project, the proposed TVET project for 2017-2020 have included a number of strategies aimed at tackling these issues beyond the targeted Chiefdoms: Support women’s role as agricultural producers and participants in the creation of rural value chains; Promote women’s participation in new economic areas; and Address gender issues in policies and programmes and remove social barriers that limit the contribution and participation of women.