Cross Section of Participants and Staff from Solidaridad and FAO
A training programme by Solidaridad and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization will empower over 200 grassroots women across communities in Bo, Bombali, Port-Lokko and Kenema in Sierra Leone, to improve their livelihoods as they engage in responsible agricultural investments.
The 12-month initiative is being developed under the Gender and Responsible Agricultural Investment initiative designed by the Food and Agriculture Organization and implemented by Solidaridad. It seeks to reduce poverty, address gender inequality and enhance food security and nutrition as a contribution to the country’s attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This was disclosed during a workshop held on March 31 in Bo District, which was designed to capture and embed the views of rural farmers in the delivery of the programme. The workshop brought together about 30 participants including rural women and grassroots organizations like the Gender Equality for Peace Building, Women Multi-Purpose Cooperation, Gola Rainforest National Park, Action for Advocacy and Development, Concern Worldwide, Women in the Media Sierra Leone, as well as some educational institutions such as the Njala University.
“The SDGs can only be achieved if both men and women equally engaged in responsible investments in agriculture. Rural women and their grassroots organizations, if empowered, can actively participate in policy-making processes by raising concerns and contributing to enhancing agricultural investments that empower women and promote gender equality,” said Andrew Morrison, Technical Advisor at Solidaridad in Sierra Leone.
Gender expert and representative from the Food and Agriculture Organization, Kadija Jalloh, said the workshop is in line with a participatory process that the organization initiated in 2020, to enhance gender-responsive investment in Sierra Leone. She encouraged women to participate in the training programme fully to reap its full benefits.
Kadija noted that the workshop forms part of the implementation of a roadmap that had been developed by FAO to identify and address the gender needs in the agricultural sector.
A representative of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security from Bombali District, Sulaiman Sankoh, said the ministry has initiated a policy shift to encourage private sector investment in agribusiness and is keen on seeing more farmers, including women, invest in agriculture.
“We believe that women play a critical role in the agriculture sector and must, therefore, be encouraged to reach their full potential,” he said.
He commended Solidaridad and the Food and Agriculture Organization for the initiative and their commitment to partner with the government in ensuring food productivity, sufficiency and security in the country.
For her part, the Deputy Director at the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Eastern Region office, Haja Alice Jeneba Koroma, said even though women represent 70 percent of the agricultural labour force in Sierra Leone, there is an unequal opportunity for them, especially in the agriculture sector. She was therefore excited about the initiative to include rural women in decisions on development interventions that affect them.
Recommendations from the participants have been consolidated to inform the development of a curriculum and the subsequent design and delivery of a tailored learning programme to support the farmers in four districts, including Bo, Bombali, Porto-Loko and Kenema.