Small Grants Yield Big Wins for Women Farmers in Sierra Leone
Washington, USA, 10 March 2023-/African Media Agency(AMA)/“Our families have enough food to eat. We manage our farms and breed poultry to serve both subsistence and commercial purposes. This is what happens when a group of determined women come together to champion their development and help improve the welfare of other women in the Jeoma Falaba community,” boasts 52-year-old Kadiatu Kamara, CEO of the Sanda Women Development Association (SWDA), a farmer-based group in Sierra Leone’s second-largest city of Bo.
The group started as a ‘savings club’ in 2014, providing micro-credits to its members. In 2018, it transformed into an agribusiness enterprise, focusing on poultry, fish farming, vegetable production, and livestock.
The group supports other business initiatives that generate additional income for its core members – more than 50 women – as well as employ other women and young men who help with poultry and vegetable farming. Sanda Women is a beneficiary of a $30,000 grant support from the Smallholder Commercialization and Agribusiness Development Project (SCADeP), a program by the Government of Sierra Leone financed by the World Bank. The program promotes smallholder commercialization by fostering productive business linkages between smallholder farmers and agribusiness firms, and other commodity buyers.
Since 2017, 102 groups (55 farmers groups and 47 Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises – MSMEs) have benefited from small-scale grants that have enhanced incomes, jobs, and agriculture productivity.
“With the hammer mill, labor time to process the animal feed has reduced considerably,” said Kadiatu, pointing to a machine procured through grant funding, which has helped the group to transition from hand-pounding of feed inputs (including oyster shells) with locally-made wooden mortars and pestles. The number of poultry birds has increased from 1,000 before SCADeP’s intervention to 10,000 (8,000 layers and 2,000 broilers). The group’s business operations have transformed, and its productivity scaled up.
“We sell hundreds of bags of poultry wastes each month to vegetable farmers in Bo and other towns. We used some of the sales proceeds to start the animal ranch, construct the fishponds populated with tilapia, and support vegetable and rice farming.“
Vice Chairlady and Marketing Officer of SWDA
The group has improved record-keeping and holds monthly meetings to update its members and plan new initiatives. This knowledge was gained from the Business Development – Technical Assistance supported by SCADeP. It operates an out-grower-scheme of 25 maize farmers groups that have off-taker arrangements with big restaurants in Bo to supply eggs, broilers, and spent layers.
The group has diversified its operations, adding fishponds and a small livestock ranch of 25 animals (13 cows and 12 goats). “We sell hundreds of bags of poultry wastes each month to vegetable farmers in Bo and other towns,” said Khadija Musa, Vice Chairlady and Marketing Officer of SWDA. “We used some of the sales proceeds to start the animal ranch, construct the fishponds populated with tilapia, and support vegetable and rice farming.”
Putting members’ children through school
Part of the group’s benefit-sharing scheme is the provision of education support to members’ children. Over a hundred children have gained primary, secondary, and university education through this scheme.
Oyah Mariama Kamara, daughter of the group’s CEO, graduated in February with a first-class BSc. in Computer Science from Njala University. Last November, she participated in a hackathon contest organized by the university and emerged as one of the top three winners. She represented Sierra Leone in a hackathon in India in January.
“This business has had a positive impact on my growth as well as hundreds of children. It has enabled our parents to support our education and also provides food for the homes. This benefit also extends to children of people employed to work in the poultry and farms,” said the 22-year-old.
The son of another project member graduated with a degree in medicine and is currently a practicing medical doctor.
Going from an organization to a company
The Sanda Women are currently transitioning from a producer organization to a company. The Sanda Women Company Limited will be able to leverage private capital from commercial banks to move their operations to scale.
“We want to move to modern technology like the battery cage system wherein once the eggs are laid, the fowls will have no contact with them. This yields high returns and will also preserve the health of the birds,” said Khadija. “But we can only achieve this through a serious investment of capital. We hope to be able to secure financing from banks to grow our business.”
Smallholder farmers drive many economies. Increased incomes and farming profits are invested locally funding jobs and equitable growth. This creates opportunities for rural women and youth to live and thrive in their home communities. Sanda Women’s success highlights how small-scale grants are contributing to food security and the alleviation of poverty among vulnerable groups, especially women.
Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of The World Bank
Source : African Media Agency (AMA)