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Sierra Rutile provides training to help women farmers reap the rewards of agriculture

Sierra Rutile provides training to help women farmers reap the rewards of agriculture

Women farmers from villages in the Imperii Chiefdom, in Southern Sierra Leone are being given the opportunity to reap the rewards of improved agricultural techniques, with an innovative agricultural training scheme provided by mining company Sierra Rutile Ltd.

The scheme, which aims to improve the agricultural and market gardening skills of local women, as well as encourage them to pass on their knowledge to other women, provides practical training in both indigenous and modern farming.  It currently focuses on women from Nyandehun, Tessor, Higima and Victoria villages.  Local chiefs nominate potential trainees for the course, and trainees receive a training bursary from Sierra Rutile.  Sierra Rutile also ensures access to on-going support and technical advice once the course has ended.

Running the programme is Imperii-born Mr Thomas Gogra, an agricultural technician who trained at Njala University and has over 35 years’ experience with the Ministry of Agriculture.   As a local man, Mr Gogra describes himself as having a vested interest in the success of the scheme:  “I am a part of this community and I know the people and the area very well.  The success of this project is very personal to me because it concerns the development of my people and I want to ensure that they benefit from the project.”

The course gives women access to an improved variety of high yielding cassava and other crops.  They also learn the skills necessary to develop their own market gardens – growing groundnuts, eggplant, okra and other vegetables.

Trainee, Fatmata Gassimu, married with four children, says that the course has given her the potential to be financially self-reliant.   Twenty-four year-old Isatu Mansary, who has three children, agrees: “We are here to learn farming skills that will help improve our lives and the lives of our families’’.  Isatu also highlights the importance of disseminating her new-found knowledge more widely, saying:  “The training will enable us to train others left behind so that they too can improve their lives.”  According to another trainee, Musu Kaindaneh, the scheme has generated a lot of interest locally.  She says:  “We are often asked when Sierra Rutile will be conducting another intake.  There are many women in other communities who want to access the programme.’’

Recent research from the World Food Programme indicates that almost half of households in Sierra Leone suffer from food insecurity, particularly during the rainy season.  Studies also demonstrate the key role women have in improving the situation.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation says that increasing women’s participation in agriculture, or closing the “gender gap” by providing equal access to agricultural resources and opportunities,  could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17 per cent, or by 100 to 150 million people.

Ansumana Jabati, Sierra Rutile’s Environmental Health and Safety Manager, highlights the economic potential of this training scheme:  “Studies show that women, in developing countries, hold the key to food production.  They also highlight how the marginalised role of women in agriculture means that they rarely benefit from training services that would teach them about new crop varieties and technologies.  We hope that this training will open up opportunities for women.  By selling their produce at local markets and even by supplying Sierra Rutile itself in the future, they could improve their economic security, which would in turn increase their food security.”

Paramount Chief Madam Hawa Kpanabum Sokaoun IV of Imperri Chiefdom concludes:  “I am extremely happy that Sierra Rutile has given women this opportunity to earn money and also to learn to manage their gardens. My desire is to see the programme expanded to other parts of my chiefdom and to cater for more women.  Helping women in our society has the propensity to reduce poverty in our communities. Women are the most affected by the mining operations and any support for these women is more than welcome.”

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  • Sierra Rutile programme is very good. My NGO (WOMENAID FOUNTAIN) is into building capacity among Women and Youth at Risk in rural communities in Ghana. I would like to get in touch with Sierra Rutile to help me achieve my VISION.
    Best regards
    Vivian Anagbonu (CEO)

    11th November 2013

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