Assessment report points to food security as top priority

July 25, 2014

Our four-month assessment of the Kongbora Chiefdom in Sierra Leone has concluded, and the information and insight we’ve gained will be of great value to us as we explore continued job creation in the country.

Among the biggest challenges identified by the assessment is food insecurity, or low assurance of regular, healthy meals. Almost every interviewee in a survey of 300 residents said that having enough to eat was a source of worry. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, which annually measures and tracks hunger by country and region through the Global Hunger Index, Sierra Leone is classified as “alarming.”

Without food security, a large percentage of a family’s energy, time and money are spent in the area of food aggregation, leaving a small percentage of time for bettering their lives in any other way. According to our assessment, food represents the largest chunk of household expenses, officially identified at 27%. However, this figure reflects only actual money spent on food. The actual percentage of resources devoted to feeding a family, when labor is included (labor to farm one’s own crops or barter for food from another), is closer to 70%. In America, by contrast, we spend on average 6-7% percent of our income on food, and an additional 7.1% of our time procuring, preparing and eating that food. When more than two-thirds of someone’s overall resources is spent growing, buying or working for food, little else is left to put toward improving health, investing in education or earning more income.

A rainy season from May to November each year, combined with a warm, temperate climate, makes Sierra Leone well-suited for agriculture. The Kongbora chiefdom receives approximately 110 inches of rain per year, which is three to four times as much rain as we receive in the eastern United States.

So why is there food insecurity in a land where water is plentiful and the air is warm? Among the barriers are food preservation and water harvesting to sustain people and crops in the dry months, crop protection from animals, insects and weather during the growing season, low productivity methods and the lingering ill effects of civil war on social trust. Our goal is to break through these barriers and reduce the toll of food procurement on household resources, making an ‘impact that lasts.’