A Widow Woman & Swamp Rice In Sierra Leone

About a week ago a friend asked me: “What project are you working on?”   It’s pretty hard to explain the open-ended process of bringing people together in community development as “a project.”  But, one of the projects I do work on is being part of a team of people who focus on increasing the impact of World Renew’s agricultural programs around the world.

Through the kindness of a donor we have a special fund to enable people to try new ideas. The ideas  can be new for their area.   I’m part of a team of people who review the ideas that come in, offer feedback and approve small grants so the ideas can be tried.   One idea came in a couple of years ago from Sierra Leone.  It was to help women rice farmers have enough seed for swamp rice planting.  It came out that these women were only allowed marginal places to plant—swamps, and had a hard time getting seed on time, and got almost no agricultural advice to improve their farming.   Now more about the story is coming in.   I share this story with thanks to Andrew G for writing it:

“Most women in Benduku village find themselves in polygamous homes, with each of the wives bearing the responsibility for taking care of, on average, five children. They struggle to adequately feed and educate their children due to the low income realized from subsistence farming activities in the community. Madam Fatmata, aged 45, was targeted as part of Christian Extension Services’s Sustainable Agriculture Food Security  project in her community. Her husband died three years ago, and she has seven children to care for. Fatmata’s life was made more difficult because her late husband’s close relatives and other men avoided any connections with her due to the magnitude of her responsibilities.


Fatmata was chosen to be the head of a group of 37 women whose challenging situation qualified them to benefit from the program. The main economic activities of this group are swamp rice farming, upland rice farming, and local vegetable gardening. She and the other group members were each given a loan of two bushels of improved rice seed. Fatmata said, “The program has really helped us increase our incomes. With the increased harvests we can feed ourselves and have some surplus to sell at market. This year I made Le 710,000 (US $177.50) from rice sales. I am hoping to purchase a corrugated sheet to replace my thatched roof.”

The economic situation of Fatmata and her children has dramatically changed for the better over the course of the last two years, and her leadership skills have developed significantly. She is contributing to the Wara Wara Yagala Chiefdom by paying her local taxes and participating in meetings. She represents local women’s groups at community workshops and is interested in becoming a local ward representative in her village.”

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