Rule of Law in Sierra Leone
The Sierra Leone Army experienced a bloody civil war against the Revolutionary United Front from 1991 to 2002. At the time, the state of fragility and rule of law in Sierra Leone was abysmal. The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) designed to end the civil war, almost collapsed in 2000 after the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) kidnapped hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers. To rescue UNAMSIL, the United Kingdom began a military intervention in Sierra Leone in 2000, bringing the nation away from state failure. This military intervention defeated the RUF, ended Sierra Leone’s civil war and helped Sierra Leone develop a counterinsurgency doctrine. As the civil war ended, Sierra Leone has significantly democratized with three peaceful transfers of power since 2002.

Rule of Law

Today, Sierra Leone’s state of rule of law is magnitudes better than during the Sierra Leone civil war. While the country does have a basic judiciary system to enforce the law, corruption issues and unequal treatment of civilians still plague Sierra Leon’s court and policing system.

Sierra Leone’s police force suffers from a grave lack of accountability for extrajudicial killings and physical abuse. In December 2007, authorities did not hold any police officer to account for shooting and killing two demonstrators protesting a diamond mining company. Additionally, in 2012, authorities did not place blame on any police for the killing of two young men at Calaba Town without evidence that those young men had weapons. Sierra Leone police have also not received blame for shooting dead a motorcyclist they mistook for a bank robber in 2012. Sierra Leone has an endemic issue of police accountability and the Complaint Discipline and Internal Investigations Department (CDIID), a body designed to investigate police complaints is a body exclusively made up of police members. While this body has occasionally taken action for professional misconduct, the department has not investigated serious abuses or any of the abuses above.

Corruption in Sierra Leon’s Judiciary System

While Sierra Leone’s corruption in its judiciary system has improved, Sierra Leone’s court system still suffers from widespread corruption. The Sierra Leonean courts suffer from a lack of legitimacy as 32% of Sierra Leonean citizens say they trust the courts “somewhat” or “a lot” and 47% of Sierra Leone citizens say that “most” or “all” judges and magistrates are corrupt as of 2017. While defendants had the right to legal counsel, many defendants did not receive this right. The attorneys were often overworked and many defendants who could not pay for an outside attorney were not able to obtain pre-trial legal counsel or aid as of 2020. Luckily, Sierra Leone does not hold political prisoners and still maintains a relatively independent judicial system while the law, in theory, provides the right for every defendant in Sierra Leone to have a fair trial.

Fragility

In terms of political institutions, Sierra Leone is relatively stable. Since the end of the civil war, Sierra Leone has had three peaceful transfers of power in democratic elections. While Sierra Leone’s democratic institutions are functioning relatively well for a newer and poorer democracy, the threat of political violence is pervasive as 80% of Sierra Leoneans believe that politics almost always leads to violence.

Sierra Leone has come a long way since 1991. Fragility and rule of law in Sierra Leone today are orders of magnitude better than in 1991. The country has a relatively stable political landscape while suffering from an undercurrent of political violence as of 2022. Corruption permeates Sierra Leone’s criminal justice system and while in theory, every defendant receives the right to legal counsel, the system still does not equally apply it to all defendants in practice. Sierra Leone is relatively democratic with relatively free and fair elections and they have not suffered from mass political violence since the civil war in Sierra Leone.

Alexander Richter
Photo: Flickr

Women in Sierra LeoneGender-based violence, discrimination and genital mutilation are some of the many challenges that women in Sierra Leone face. In comparison to males within the nation, a woman’s “voice, visibility, participation and representation in elective and appointment positions” is substantially less. Women in Sierra Leone face severe marginalization despite their significant “contributions to the economy” and the sustenance of their households.

Genital Mutilation

Active membership in “secret societies” has detrimental impacts on girls and women in Sierra Leone. These inconspicuous societies stand as  significant “cultural institutions” steeped in ancient rituals that Sierra Leoneans believe “protect communities against evil and guide adolescent girls to womanhood.” Sierra Leone holds “one of the highest rates of [female genital mutilation]” globally with 90% of girls and women aged 15 to 49 enduring the violating procedure. Female community members often perform genital mutilation procedures “without anesthetic,” using knives, razors and even shards of glass. Female genital mutilation, in addition to risks of extensive hemorrhaging, can result in a multitude of medical problems ranging “from infections and cysts to infertility and complications in childbirth.”

Gender-Based Violence

Almost 50% of Sierra Leonean females endure “sexual or physical violence during their lifetime.” Throughout the Sierra Leone Civil War, “widespread and systematic sexual violence against women and girls” was a common occurrence. This extreme brutality, often at the hands of rebel groups and Civil Defense Forces, affected girls and women of all ages. In terms of violence within domestic relationships, several factors play a role.

The first is that Sierra Leonean society sees certain types of violence in a relationship as warranted and acceptable. In addition, women who report cases of domestic violence face harsh judgment and shame from the community, which is why many choose to remain silent. The legal system also does not see cases of violence involving married women as a priority, but rather, a personal matter that requires a resolution within the confines of a home. In general, many citizens do not have faith in the legal system. The lack of competency within the fragmented legal system continues to generate leniency for perpetrators, contributing to the prevalence of abuse toward women.

Marginalization in the Workforce

Women in Sierra Leone have long generated significant advances in the economy and frequently serve a key part in ensuring their households’ survival. In rural Sierra Leone, women perform more than 60% of the agricultural work necessary for food production in the nation. Males, however, continue to have stronger opportunities for management and influence of the industry, ultimately demoting females to inferior jobs, according to USAID.

Barriers to Education

Girls are less likely to remain in school in comparison to boys due to factors such as child marriage, early pregnancy and gender roles that dictate a female must take on household responsibilities. Additionally, it is extremely rare for a female to continue her education after marriage or pregnancy — “less than 2%” of married females between the ages of 15 and 19 attend school. Due to these cultural norms, women in Sierra Leone are chronically undereducated, a factor that has far-reaching impacts.

Lack of Political Representation

Women in Sierra Leone confront significant challenges when joining the political arena. They face difficulty when navigating disproportionately male-dominated political structures, such as in “accessing male-dominated political networks and making allies, in financing election campaigns and in commanding respect.” Women also often face gender-based discrimination within the political domain. Lower levels of literacy as well as inadequate knowledge of rights and “political processes” further limits females’ capacity to participate on an equal ground alongside males and successfully advocate for fellow women.

The Good News

The Lady Ellen Women’s Aid Foundation (LEWAF-SL) is an autonomous, international non-governmental organization developed in 2008 but formally “established in 2014.” This group was formed in remembrance of Ellen Pauline Kise, a philanthropic humanitarian who died of cancer in 2008. LEWAF’s objective is to eradicate gender-based violence in Sierra Leone, dissolve inequality and ensure that societies treat women as valuable contributors deserving of dignity and respect. To accomplish this, the organization supports women through a four-pronged response:  prevention, protection, response and advocacy. LEWAF seeks to help women in Sierra Leone achieve equality and become empowered.

Despite the discrimination they endure, women in Sierra Leone can look to a brighter future as organizations empower them with the resources and skills to rise up against women’s rights violations and lift themselves out of poverty.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Unsplash

Water Quality in Sierra LeoneSierra Leone is a small, tropical country located on the west coast of Africa. Despite its six-month “wet season,” characterized by 90% humidity and torrential rainfall, Sierra Leone struggles to provide quality drinking water to its citizens. As of 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 98% of Sierra Leoneans do not have access to clean drinking water and that “most households lack basic sanitation.” Fortunately, there are many organizations, both internal and external, that are seeking to combat poor water quality in Sierra Leone. These organizations utilize five strategies to broaden access to clean water.

5 Strategies to Broaden Access to Clean Water

  1. Installing Wells. Many of the wells in Sierra Leone are dug by hand and are unable to reach underground aquifers where clean water is stored. For this reason, many nonprofit organizations, such as World Hope, Living Water and Sierra Leone Rising, are prioritizing efforts to install deeper wells in both urban and rural areas of Sierra Leone. Generally, the installation of a quality, long-lasting well costs about $11,000. To minimize the cost of developing these much-needed wells, World Hope and Sierra Leone Rising are teaming up, splitting the cost of building 20 wells. Between 2017 and 2018, World Hope drilled 45 wells in Sierra Leone and its neighboring country, Liberia. When people have local access to clean water wells, they are less prone to diseases and do not have to waste as much productive time seeking out potable water.
  2. Monitoring Local Water Sources. Many of the water sources in Sierra Leone are polluted and spread diseases to the people who drink from them. This is why the CDC is partnering with public health officials in Sierra Leone to better monitor water quality and respond to waterborne disease outbreaks. The CDC began guiding “public health staff” in 2018, successfully training 50 employees “to detect and respond to waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid.” Those 50 staff members went on to teach 500 other community members the same methods of water testing. As a result of these training sessions, new job opportunities are arising, the spread of waterborne illness is decreasing and water quality in Sierra Leone is improving nationwide.
  3. Expanding the Sanitation Sector. The Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a foreign aid agency based out of the United States, working in Sierra Leone since 2015 in an effort to improve the country’s poor water quality. The program helped draft the first digital map of the water distribution system in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, which will allow water companies to “better assess the water system’s performance” and “more efficiently address service delivery problems,” ultimately providing more Sierra Leoneans with access to clean, safe water. The nation also recently drafted blueprints to expand all water and sanitation services in urban areas and neighboring towns by 2023, aiming to reach all cities by 2030. With the expansion of the sanitation sector, improved water quality in Sierra Leone is inevitable.
  4. Developing Rainfall Collection Systems. During Sierra Leone’s six-month wet season, the country experiences torrential rains and flooding. However, “from November to April,” the country experiences a harsh dry season during which droughts and water shortages are commonplace. This is why the Freetown city mayor, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, campaigned in 2021 to install “more than 160 rainwater harvesting systems” in rural areas outside of the capital. Each rainwater harvesting system has the capacity to collect between 5,000 and 10,000 liters of water, which means that citizens can harness excess water during the rainy season to use during the dry season droughts.
  5. Installing Public Latrines and Handwashing Stations. In an effort to fight the spread of COVID-19, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr is also working to install easily accessible latrines and handwashing stations throughout the city of Freetown. So far, she has built handwashing kiosks in 23 different marketplaces and has hired citizens to monitor each station and use a megaphone to remind shoppers of the importance of washing their hands. Many of the natural water sources in Sierra Leone are contaminated due to poor waste management and a lack of access to functional latrines. To help improve the water quality in Sierra Leone, the mayor is installing public bathrooms in addition to the handwashing kiosks. These public restrooms will help contain liquid and solid waste so that it does not seep into the nation’s water supply, significantly reducing the spread of disease.

Looking Ahead

Historically, Sierra Leone has faced many obstacles, including civil war, extreme seasonal weather and devastating outbreaks of the Ebola virus and COVID-19. However, the small African nation is taking great measures to improve the water quality in Sierra Leone so that its citizens have access to clean, safe drinking water all year round.

– Hannah Gage
Photo: Flickr


In the past decade, microfinance has soared as a strategy to alleviate poverty. BRAC International, one of the world’s largest nongovernmental organizations, supports microfinancing in seven countries in Africa and Asia. Importantly, BRAC’s microfinance program supports people to engage in financial activity to overcome poverty.

Microfinancing

Microfinance is a financial practice that lends small sums to people with few means to support their small businesses. The goal is for small businesses to earn a profit and then pay back the loan. The microfinance institution then loans the capital out again. Through this cycle, people are able to rise out of poverty. Microfinancing frames poverty as the deprivation of the ability to participate in economic and political processes. By that logic, if people can obtain microloans, these individuals will engage in financial activity and overcome poverty.

Studies have only found limited evidence of the efficacy of microfinancing at eradicating poverty. However, the practice is far from a failure. Specifically, the capital lent to the impoverished provides stability in their lives, easing the day-to-day anxiety about monetary shortages. In addition, studies have found that people who take out microloans are motivated to invest more time into their businesses. Though not miraculously transformative, microfinancing has achieved overall positive results in reducing poverty.

BRAC Programs

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed founded BRAC in 1972 to help refugees from the Bangladesh Liberation War. Since then, BRAC has created eight programs to empower people suffering from poverty, social injustice, illiteracy and disease. Microfinance is one of the eight programs of the organization. BRAC believes that the financial inclusion of impoverished people and communities is an essential step toward ending poverty.

More than 660,000 people benefit from BRAC’s microfinance program, which operates in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Along with loans, BRAC also provides financial literacy training to the borrowers. This teaches borrowers to be responsible with money and make better financial decisions. In addition to microfinance services, the organization also provides communities with programs like agriculture classes, youth education and health care. When paired with these programs, microfinance has an even greater impact on communities.

BRAC’s Focus on Women

More than 96% of BRAC’s borrowers are women. One female entrepreneur, Kadiatu Conteh from Sierra Leone, exemplifies how BRAC impacts its beneficiaries. Conteh’s sister introduced her to BRAC. At the time, Conteh’s family was struggling to make ends meet and she was trying to earn money by selling drinks with only a cooler. Conteh took out a loan and invested the money in more beverages for her business. Slowly, she increased her profits. After four years with BRAC, she accumulated enough funds to invest in her own store where she now sells household items.

Selina Karoli Fissoo also benefited from BRAC’s microfinance program. With other women in the city of Arusha, Tanzania, Fissoo formed a microfinance group to receive loans and financial literacy training from BRAC. She invested her first loan into her small grocery business, and as her profits increased, she applied for larger loans. After more than 10 years of working with BRAC, Fissoo has a large retail store and even dabbles in poultry farming.

The Benefits of Microfinance to Alleviate Poverty

Conteh and Fissoo are just two of hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs who have prospered from the help of BRAC’s microfinance programs. Microloans provide stability in the lives of the impoverished and can motivate people to invest more time into their businesses. Especially when coupled with other programs, microfinance is an effective method for alleviating poverty.

– Alison Ding
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Jeremiah Thoronka
The night of November 10, 2021, marked an inspiring day for renewable energy innovations. Jeremiah Thoronka, a 21-year-old student from Sierra Leone, won the Global Student Prize at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France. His invention, Optim Energy, utilizes kinetic energy from pedestrian and street traffic vibrations to produce clean, renewable energy. With $100,000 in prize money, he hopes to expand his responsible consumption practices and reach 100,000 people by 2030.

The Innovative 17-Year-Old

Jeremiah Thoronka was born into the chaos of the Sierra Leone war and his single mother raised him in a refugee camp. Firewood and coal, which produce photochemical smog, were the only energy sources available to his community, negatively impacting health and education. These adversities prompted his advocacy and creativity for renewable energy. He was only 17 when he first created Optim Energy, creating a unique kind of renewable energy because it does not rely on a battery or weather conditions, like wind and solar power. With a passion for renewable energy and robotics, Thoronka began to change the world.

His achievements continue to add to his already impressive list, exemplifying his incredible drive and hard work. Thoronka’s impact traces back to his studies at the Durham University and the African Leadership University where he pursued an honors “degree in Global Challenge with a focus on Energy and Sustainable Development.” He also took the position of Secretary-General of ALU Student Representative Council (2019-2020) and is the founder of the Sierra Leone Student Conservation Organization (SLSCO).

In Rwanda, Thoronka aided the Agahozo Youth Village in providing education and skills to orphans and vulnerable youth. The young innovator volunteers to teach children in his community how to pass the National Primary School Examination. He presents his research papers and workshops at world-renowned conventions, like the World Youth Forum or IRENA Innovation Week, as an author. In his writing, Thoronka focuses on the environment, renewability, youth leadership and entrepreneurship. He dedicates his work to building stronger communities and opportunities for those without them.

The Challenges of Energy Poverty in Sierra Leone

Energy poverty in Sierra Leone is severe, with only 6% of rural populations having access to electricity. The lack of power leads to a reliance on firewood and kerosene generators, both of which cause significant issues. Firewood leads to the destruction of forests, which puts Sierra Leone in danger of severe weather consequences from floods or landslides. Frequent house fires are common due to the use of cheap kerosene generators. The replacement of these energy sources would be beneficial for energy access and fire hazards, the environment and health. “By replacing the use of kerosene, it reduces the risk of fires from the combustible fuel source, reduces the negative impacts on health, increases productivity and can offset around 370kg of CO2 per year.”

Optim Energy

Today, Optim Energy is making strides toward improvements and expansion. It has generated power for 150 households and 15 schools, free of charge. Optim Energy has also grown into “a larger initiative aiming to shrink greenhouse gas emissions, educate citizens about energy efficiency and build a sustainable energy sector in Sierra Leone.” In 2019, there was a 5% improvement in energy access in “the local community grid in the rural area where [Thoronka] operates.” That is 3% above the average for Sierra Leone, which has risen by 65% since the early 2000s. The problem with this increase is how underdeveloped the nation’s energy systems are in meeting the population’s demand. Overall, in Sierra Leone, more than “89% of the population live without electricity and nearly 96% rely on traditional solid biomass for cooking.” Improvements that inventors like Jeremiah Thoronka create will aid the energy poverty in Sierra Leone.

Looking Ahead

Energy poverty is complex, and a solution will take years, yet innovations and creators make strides daily. Communities receiving an education that will spark leadership and ingenuity will create a new generation of out-of-the-box thinkers. Companies that are creating clean, renewable energy are expanding and improving. The future of energy access is bright. It will take collaboration to fight energy inequality. Until then, Jeremiah Thoronka will continue impressing the world and those he inspires will follow in his steps.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19's Impact on Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is a nation in recovery. As with many countries throughout the globe, COVID-19 has left a lasting mark on the West African nation. In a June to October 2020 survey that Innovations for Poverty Action in Sierra Leone implemented, nearly 50% of respondents reported income reductions and about 60% of respondents reported depleting their savings to secure food for the household. However, in the wake of COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone, some sectors are regaining strength.

The After-Effects of COVID-19

Sierra Leone went into lockdown quickly in response to the initial outbreak of the novel coronavirus within its borders in March 2020, declaring a state of emergency prior to any confirmation of infection. Rapid policy changes followed, restricting travel and putting into place extensive testing programs which, coupled with a high level of social compliance, brought the infection and death rates to an early plateau. This impressive effort in containment came at a great economic cost, however, with the nation’s GDP contracting around 3.1% in 2020.

Revitalizing the Economy

Forecasts predict that Sierra Leone’s GDP will grow roughly 4% by the end of 2021, eclipsing the contraction of 2020, with further acceleration predictions in 2022. This projected growth links to a renewed demand for exports, particularly in the country’s mining sector.

World Bank experts state that sustaining this growth will require structural reform, strong monetary policy and a robust vaccination program, allowing businesses and employees alike to return to full-capacity operations both quickly and safely.

To that end, “the World Bank approved an $8.5 million grant” in June 2021 to further vaccination efforts in Sierra Leone, building upon an earlier $7.5 million monetary injection provided by the International Development Association in 2020 to shore up economic deficits resulting from COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone. Additionally, The Sierra Leone Central Bank announced a redenomination of the national currency in an effort to combat inflation. However, not all efforts for economic regrowth fall within the confines of the financial sector.

US Assistance

Sierra Leone saw a marked increase in poverty as a result of wage depression and job loss stemming from the pandemic, particularly in urban areas. The remediation of economic damages in these areas is an important step in breathing new life into the Sierra Leonean economy.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government-funded agency dedicating efforts to international growth and development, is working to do just that. The MCC completed a $44.4 million project “to improve the water and electrical services in and around Freetown,” Sierra Leone’s capital and largest urban center, in March 2021. The MCC has recently begun talks with government representatives and the private sector to make further, larger investments in the nation’s growth in the form of an economic compact.

Further Help for Citizens in Need

In August 2021, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced a new program specifically focusing on aiding women and youth affected by COVID’s impact on Sierra Leone. The program will provide grants of $60,000 to $140,000 for distribution by NGOs to women and youth-operated businesses in both rural and urban areas that were forced to scale down or cease operations during the pandemic. The aim is to bring these businesses back into the marketplace and stimulate the local economy. These efforts work in concert with Sierra Leone’s internal efforts to help the nation get back onto its feet in the post-pandemic environment.

Mining Sector Leads Growth

With a return to pre-pandemic GDP levels in sight, Sierra Leone hopes to continue growth in 2022. Forecasts predict the nation’s GDP to grow by as much as 5% by 2022, outpacing its sub-Saharan neighbors, which could grow to 1% to 2% less over the same period. The country’s mining sector is a strong driver of the national economy accounting for 3% of national employment in 2018 as well as “65% of export earnings.” The mining sector is on track for a 34% overall increase, led by a predicted 850% increase in demand for iron ore over 2020.

With such a major market component leading the way, other economic areas may expect revitalization as well. In the agricultural sector, employing about two-thirds of Sierra Leone’s workforce, the government encourages mining companies’ investment in communities local to their operations, furthering citizens’ access to food as well as gainful employment. Predictions estimate that the domestic construction and energy industries, both with close links to mining infrastructure, may see growth as well. This combined push for economic renewal assures better days to come for the sub-Saharan nation.

A Bright Future Ahead

Through ongoing foreign support and careful economic measures, Sierra Leone hopes to breathe new life into industries ravaged by COVID-19. With a renewed encouragement of domestic business, the nation looks to bring its citizens forward into a thriving economy and a safer, healthier society. The culmination of these efforts is proving clear less than two years after the nation’s first lockdown with a strong reemergence from the trials of COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone, promising a brighter tomorrow for the Sierra Leonean people.

– Alexander Diaz
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Juice Companies in Sierra LeoneIn the African country of Sierra Leone, the annual “wet season from May through September” is commonly titled “the hunger months” because farming and harvesting conditions are not ideal. Many impoverished farmers in Sierra Leone survive on less than $1 per day, only able to afford the costs of one daily meal. Fruit juice companies in Sierra Leone aim to improve the lives of impoverished farmers and ignite economic growth.

Poverty in Sierra Leone

Out of the nation’s population of 7 million, 53% endure conditions of poverty. According to a June 2020 report, more than 700,000 people in Sierra Leone suffer from severe food insecurity. In addition, “Only one-fifth of the estimated 5.4 million hectares of arable land is used for agriculture.” This leaves much room for agricultural expansion in the nation. The agricultural sector is underdeveloped, “dominated by smallholder farmers practicing subsistence farming with traditional methods and limited use of improved seeds and fertilizers.” As such, Sierra Leone’s agricultural sector has much potential to contribute to economic growth.

Sierra Juice

In 2013, Hamza Hashim, a cacao trader living in Sierra Leone, created the Sierra Juice company as a way to reduce food “waste and give farmers better livelihoods.” While transporting fruits to sell to markets, Hashim realized that due to a lack of cold storage facilities in Sierra Leone and the high cost and unreliable nature of electricity, fruits would start rotting before even reaching the market. Hashim came up with the idea of turning the fruits into “juice as a way to process and preserve the fruit.”

Today, the Sierra Juice company provides more than 5,000 farmers with steady livelihoods by supplying fresh fruit to the company to produce juices. The company’s goal is to provide affordable, natural juices to the community while providing farmers with an outlet to sell their produce.

The company takes it upon itself to train farmers and key equipment operators in order to keep costs low. The company is also responsible for its “own water filtration” and “electricity generation,” making Sierra Juice a “360-degree company.”

Juice Worth the Squeeze

Juice Worth the Squeeze is a 2019 project that came to a close at the end of 2020. A collaboration between Sierra Agra Inc. (Sierra Leone’s “only juice processing company”), Woord en Daad, FairMatch Support (FMS) and IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative, the project aided “mango and coconut farmers in Sierra Leone.” Sierra Agra itself was responsible for providing incomes to more than “3,500 smallholder farmers” who provided fruits to Sierra Agra, which the company then exported “to the global market.”

Women account for about 70% of the farmers providing fruits to Sierra Agra. In 2018, Sierra Agra bought more than 2,000 metric tons of fruit from these smallholder farmers.  Many of these smallholder farms “have undergone organic audits by Control Union” in order to achieve organic certification that will assist these farmers in accessing “higher market prices” in order to raise their incomes further.

The Juice Worth the Squeeze project provided training and assistance to these farmers to increase agricultural productivity, raise profits and strengthen livelihoods, targeting roughly 7,000 farmers.

Juice companies in Sierra Leone support the people of Sierra Leone by strengthening their livelihoods and providing job opportunities to communities. With support and training to increase productivity and profits, these companies empower impoverished citizens to rise out of poverty.

– Makena Roberts
Photo: Unsplash

USAID’s Intervention in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war (1991-2002) commenced a humanitarian crisis that severed its relationship with the international community. The conflict decimated the country’s infrastructure, stinted its agricultural economy and killed over 50,000 citizens. At its end, the war left a legacy of destruction and bequeathed to its predominantly young citizens a highly underdeveloped economy with no strategy for reconstruction. As a result, for the last century, Sierra Leone has desperately needed economic aid for reconstruction to repair its infrastructure and stimulate economic productivity. In response, USAID has worked alongside Sierra Leone’s administration, granting foreign aid to help with development and poverty alleviation. Following USAID’s intervention in Sierra Leone, the country evolved and is slowly incorporating itself back into the international community. 

Infrastructural Development

Infrastructural development fosters steady trade and higher profits and enhances the economy. Consequently, it increases wages and results in a higher quality of life for people.

In recent years, the relationship between infrastructural development and poverty alleviation has become noticeable in Sierra Leone. In 2015, the United States Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation gave the underdeveloped country $44.4 million to rebuild infrastructure, homes and highways. As a result, Sierra Leone has made significant strides, creating a network of highways as well as the Freetown Port, which could increase boat traffic by 30%. In 2021, the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) also pledged to give $217 million for a new power plant in Freetown, “providing power generation to meet approximately 24 percent of projected electricity.”

With the help of foreign aid, Sierra Leone also published the “New Direction” manifesto, an infrastructure plan that will connect valuable mining belts through a series of roads and construct a new railway line through its provinces. Infrastructural development has also let Sierra Leone adopt humanitarian initiatives, evident in its establishment of the Ministry of Water Resources in 2013. Although the project has a pending deadline, it promises to provide 21,000 m3 of portable water, which will serve 420,000 citizens located in the East of Freetown communities.

Such initiatives will allow for trade efficiency and economic independence, which will augment Sierra Leone’s economy, alleviate poverty and let the government provide for its citizens. USAID’s intervention in Sierra Leone has resulted in infrastructural reconstruction initiatives, which will continue to fuel economic and social uplift.

Economic Productivity

To further assist economic growth, the United States invested $12 million for development in Sierra Leone’s agricultural sector, which accounts for 60% of the country’s GDP. These funds will let Sierra Leone buy the technology and equipment it needs to expand its agricultural sector onto previously uncultivated lands, which make up 75% of the country. Such an expansion would decrease the percentage (80%) of foodstuffs it imports from other countries and allow for further economic self-reliance. A thriving agrarian sector would also derive higher profits and provide the funds for higher quality fisheries, improved mining techniques and other large-scale business enterprises.

Overall, these economic developments, which USAID’s intervention in Sierra Leone spurred on, have positively affected its economy, which has increased 5.1% to a GDP of $4.2 billion. In 2016, labor employment grew to 2.472 million, contrasting the 1.985 million employed in 2004. Recently, only 4.47% of the total labor force did not have employment. These numbers hold a bright future for Sierra Leone’s economic productivity and, as such, promise to eradicate the poverty that has long plagued its borders.

Medical Institutions and Aid

USAID’s intervention in Sierra Leone has also involved disease relief by aiding the country’s medical sector. In 2014, an Ebola outbreak contaminated 14,124 Sierra Leoneans, killing 3,956 people. In response, USAID established the Pillar II activities and investments, where U.S. organizations and partners gave $2.4 billion to Sierra Leone’s government, and West African countries, to contain the fatal disease. Significantly, 60% of these funds went into Sierra Leone’s medical sector, effectively strengthening the country’s healthcare system and putting an end to the spread of Ebola. USAID continues to support Sierra Leone’s medical field, beginning the Strengthening Post-Ebola Health Governance (SHG) program in 2017, which gives healthcare services and establishes Village Development Committees (VDCs) to oversee health services throughout the country.

By helping improve Sierra Leone’s health services, USAID not only saves lives and neutralizes viral diseases but also contains them before they infiltrate the international community. USAID’s intervention in Sierra Leone has let the country prosper and move away from its dark past. Sierra Leone’s civil war ravaged its infrastructure and economy, while Ebola exposed the weakness of its medical sector. However, organizations such as USAID have significantly impacted reconstruction, thereby promising a brighter future for countries that have been long underdeveloped.

Although USAID’s intervention in Sierra Leone has proved beneficial, more progress is necessary. Funding from countries and organizations will be beneficial for Sierra Leone so that it can prosper well into the future.

– Jacob Crosley
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Sierra LeoneSierra Leone is a small country off the west coast of Africa where human trafficking is rife due to a concept called “Temple Run.” The phrase “Temple Run” refers to operations that traffickers run to lure young men and women into paying large sums of money to embark on risky journeys that victims believe will lead them to employment or educational opportunities, allowing them to escape poverty. Here is some information about human trafficking in Sierra Leone.

Human Trafficking in Sierra Leone

Authorities did not address human trafficking in Sierra Leone up until 2005 when Sierra Leone’s government instated the 2005 anti-trafficking law. “The 2005 anti-trafficking law criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking,” making the punishment “up to 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine or both.” This law is a step in the right direction but is not without flaws. The law allows for perpetrators to avoid jail time by paying a fine instead — a provision that received backlash from citizens seeking justice.

Even though there was finally a law against human trafficking in Sierra Leone, the ability to pay a fine in place of facing jail time makes trafficking a less punishable offense than rape. Sierra Leone decided to make a change. On August 28, 2012, Sierra Leone passed the Sexual Offenses Act. This act criminalized sex trafficking under its “forced prostitution” and “child prostitution” provisions and prescribed penalties of up to 15 years of imprisonment. This amendment made the crime of sex trafficking equal to the punishment for rape in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone decided to update the law again in 2019  to legislate harsher punishments for sexual offenses, including sex trafficking.

First Human Trafficking Convictions

Even with the 2005 Anti-Trafficking Law and Sexual Offenses Act in place, it was not until February 11, 2020, that the Sierra Leone High Court finally convicted perpetrators for human trafficking. One Sierra Leonean woman received a 20-year sentence and another woman faced an eight-year-long sentence for money laundering and human trafficking charges — the first two human trafficking convictions in Sierra Leone’s history. Sierra Leone is also currently working to replace the 2005 anti-trafficking law to increase penalties, improve victim protection and remove the option of paying a fine as an alternative to imprisonment, but this still remains as a pending draft to date.

How IOM Assists

The International Organization of Migration (IOM), an organization with links to the United Nations, is taking significant steps to help reduce human trafficking in Sierra Leone. In April 2019, the IOM launched a project called Reducing the Risk of Irregular Migration through Promotion of Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship Support for the Youths. This project’s goal is to prevent human trafficking by reducing the struggles within the country that would influence migration out of the country. For example, in March 2021, the IOM held a $4.3 million vocational training program to help prepare “2,000 unemployed young men and women to meet the domestic demand for skilled jobs.” With more job opportunities, fewer citizens may be lured into human trafficking. The IOM is also trying to raise awareness about ‘Temple Run” lures and the dangers victims potentially face.

With these efforts, human trafficking in Sierra Leone should reduce as the overall quality of life in Sierra Leone improves.

– Ethan Douglas
Photo: Flickr

Technology in Sierra Leone
Ranking as one of the least developed nations in the world, Sierra Leone aspires to increase development through investments in advanced technologies. President Julius Maada Bio’s ambitious plans for digitization center around the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation led by Dr. David Moinina Sengeh. The creation of DSTI could have a revolutionary effect on the government’s capabilities to help its citizens and progress the technology in Sierra Leone.

What is DSTI?

DSTI is the main element of the Sierra Leone National Innovation and Digital Strategy. It emerged in 2018 and is based on the philosophy of “digitization for all.” Its primary mission is to use science and innovation to promote the Medium-Term National Development Plan, which strives to improve people’s lives through education, inclusive growth and a strong economy. Furthermore, DSTI hopes to make Sierra Leone a country where innovation can thrive and where people of all ages can come together to lead their own start-ups and initiatives.

Headed by the country’s first Chief Innovation Officer, Dr. Sengeh, DSTI has created an opportunity for the development of technology in Sierra Leone for its citizens. One of those opportunities presents itself in the form of a partnership between UNICEF Sierra Leone Country Office and DSTI. The organizations have come together to create government processes that revolve around the use of data for successful decision-making. The UNICEF Office of Innovation team provides its expertise and advises DSTI regularly. This support will strengthen and secure the partnership and aims to improve the lives of Sierra Leone’s women and children.

Current Technology in Sierra Leone

In 2020, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supported DSTI with a grant of $131,130. This grant assisted the plan for a viable and cost-effective drone-delivery system for Sierra Leone’s medical supply chain. Drones could potentially provide access to places in Sierra Leone that others previously thought were too remote or too difficult to navigate. The efficacy of these drones allows authorities in Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation to have on-demand delivery for essential medical supplies; restock rural community health centers and hospitals in a timely, cost-effective manner; extend limited diagnostic coverage and decrease response time to pathogen outbreaks. DSTI has joined forces with the National Medical Supply Agency and development partners and intends to plan a five-year project that integrates a nationwide medical delivery service in Sierra Leone using drones.

In April 2019, Sierra Leone became a drone-testing site to better the lives of children in the more rural areas of the nation. UNICEF and the government of Sierra Leone established a drone corridor aiming to develop and test drones for “aerial imagery and transportation.” DSTI and the Ministry of Transport and Aviation lead the project for the drone corridor. In addition to aiding Sierra Leone’s medical system, the drone initiative will set up education programs. These programs will help locals build the skills needed to use and maintain the drones.

The Importance of Technological Advancement

In September 2019, President Bio revealed the first portable DNA sequencer. This sequencer can provide quick, efficient information in multiple fields such as medicine, agriculture, food, water and education. Additionally, police can utilize the sequencer for investigating sex crimes. This is a huge breakthrough for Sierra Leone because President Bio had declared a national rape emergency earlier that year.

All these technological and scientific breakthroughs have a transformative effect on Sierra Leone’s government and its ability to meet the needs of its citizens. Along with improving the nation’s development, Sierra Leone could provide a blueprint for the rest of Africa and recognize the nation’s economic potential.

Addison Franklin
Photo: Flickr