Cassava is one of the primary cash crops grown in Sierra Leone. It makes up the diet of a large quantity of the Sierra Leonean population. In general, it comprises 40% of the staple food. It has been part of the Sierra Leonean diet for more centuries. It is also widely grown in almost all part of the country. Because of the long contact Sierra Leoneans have had with cassava, they have learnt to process it in different ways. Primarily, cassava that is chopped and boiled serves as an important supplement to the staple food rice especially for the Sherbros in the Bonthe and Moyamba districts. Cassava is also often grounded into a sticky substance called fufu. This is cooked and source added to it. Although this is generally eaten by majority of Sierra Leoneans, it is part of the traditional diet of the Krios who make it their menu every Saturdays. Also significantly, cassava is also used to prepare gari which is acquired when cassava is grated, squeezed and parched. This also is a very common diet for the people of Sierra Leone. According to the Farm Manager of the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR) Michael Benya, there are different varieties of cassava suitable for different purposes. He maintained that cassava suitable for boiling and eating might not be suitable for fufu or gari production and vice versa. Others are only suitable for the production of flour. He explained that the institute has got improved varieties of cassava all of which have proven to do very well in Sierra Leone. Most farmers however do not take into consideration the type of cassava to grow in relation to the purpose for which the cassava is grown.
WHY GROW CASSAVA AND RICE? The organization Help People Help Themselves has many goals one of which is to provide job opportunities for the people of Bonthe. One can read more about this on our homepage/links www.slcbo.org Cassava has been grown in Sierra Leone for many, many years, and most people are familiar with it growing and processing. Because of this it will be easy to embark on the growing of cassava as long as the organization can provide the necessary equipment. Cassava growing will provide temporal but regular job opportunities for most of the unskilled labour force on the Island. This is because its planting, harvesting and processing has to go through several stages. For instance before planting, the bush needs to be cleared, the earth ploughed and dug up. After this, the cassava is then planted. Harvesting takes place several months later when the cassava is believed to be ripe. After harvesting, the cassava is washed and peeled making it ready for the next phase of the process. This phase deals with the processing of the cassava into various forms depending on the desire of the farmer. It can for instance be mashed and left to rot in order to produce ‘fufu’ (a diet often eaten on Saturdays by the Krios). Rice growing has also been an integral part of Sierra Leone. Arguably, rice perhaps is the most valuable cash crop in Sierra Leone. It is the county’s staple food and is eaten by almost every household in the country. Interestingly for most Sierra Leoneans, not eaten rice for a day is equivalent to not eating at all notwithstanding any other type of food that they might of have eaten. Rice production reached its peak in Sierra Leone in the 1960s-1980s when enough rice was grown to serve the country’s population (which was less than 2 million) as well as for export to neighbouring countries. During this period, rice was cheap and available. The situation is however pathetically different today. Despite its availability, today rice has become extremely expensive. A 50 kg bag of rice is sold at Le 130,000 (Approximately $ 34 US dollars. Exchange rate at $ 1 = Le 3800). The severity of the situation is evident bearing in mind that 80% of the country’s work force earns less than $ 100 US dollars per month. In Bonthe, which was once the source of huge rice production in Sierra Leone, two types of rice cultivation is usually done. These are swamp rice and upland rice cultivation. These systems of cultivation are not limited to Bonthe Island alone but spread across the rest of the country. Upland cultivation involves rice growing on mainland while swamp rice cultivation refers to rice growing in swamps. At present however, Bonthe has lost its unique status as the bread basket of the country. This to a large extent has contributed to the increase in the price of rice. The future goal will be to restore the lost glory of Bonthe as a trading hub and a bread basket of the country. To achieve this, large scale rice cultivation should be encouraged in place of the usual subsistence farming that the people have been practicing. Help People Help Themselves wishes to establish a training centre where farmers will be trained in improved methodologies of rice and cassava production. They will also be trained in managing proceeds from their farms that will help them improve on their livelihood. Farmers will also be trained in caring for the environment in the course of their cultivation and processes. To achieve its aims, the organization to a large extent would depend on donors and volunteers wishing to support its activities. At present, volunteers of the organization are from Norway and Sierra Leone. The organization would therefore appreciate any support rendered to it either in terms of finance or equipment. Equipment required include outboard engine, tractors with is requisite implements, pickup vans, etc.