Global Hunger Crisis: Farmers in Sierra Leone Are Planting Less This Year
The war between Russia and Ukraine has led to unprecedented price shocks in food, energy and fertilizer globally due to the centrality of both countries in the functionality of these markets. Like most countries in the world, Sierra Leone is severely affected by these shocks.
Poor smallholder farmers — who already struggled to produce enough food — are facing severe impacts because they can no longer afford inputs and related services. Some farmers report they are planting on half the fields because they cannot afford more. Female farmers have reduced from weekly market visits to monthly visits because they cannot afford the travel. The majority of the farmers interviewed indicated to have challenges acquiring adequate food for their families due to the high cost of food items. This is expected to worsen in the next few months as farm sizes have been reduced this farming season, hence, low production levels of food crops are inevitable.
To understand the current impact of the global food crisis on smallholder farmers and their resilience in the local context, CARE engaged participants of its Solar Harnessed Entrepreneurs (SHE) project in two communities in the north of the country. The aim is to obtain firsthand information on the affordability of inputs, impact of these shocks especially on female farmers and farmers’ coping mechanisms in the wake of the current global crisis.
Farmers are planting less
Farmers are planting crops this year (2022) despite the current challenges. In the face of the increases in cost of production and agro-services, project participants reduced farm sizes this year with an anticipated decrease in production levels. For instance, some participants say they have reduced their farm sizes by half, and for some by 25%, this year compared to the previous year. This will exacerbate the already precarious food security landscape in the country.
Inputs are more expensive
“Some of us who use fertilizer cannot afford the quantity we need this year due to the almost triple increase in the price of fertilizer. For instance, the cost of a bag of fertilizer last year was Le 450,000 ($45); this year it stands at Le 1,100,000 ($100).”
— Project participants, Robuya community.
“Last year a basket of groundnut seeds was Le 18,000 ($1.80) whilst this year, we bought it at Le 50,000 ($5).”
— Project participants, Robuya community.
Female farmers are less mobile
The high cost of fuel is negatively impacting female farmers, raising transportation costs to and from input and output markets. This has the potential to reduce their profit margins as they buy inputs at very high prices compared to previous years. Some savings group members say they are already reducing their savings to meet other household maintenance costs, especially those associated with food and some essential nonfood items.
“I used to travel to Makeni City at least once a week to buy goods for my business when the fare was only around Le 60,000 ($6) round trip. Now I travel once a month since the fare was increased to Le 120,000 ($12). I now ask my friend to buy goods on my behalf so that we can share the cost of transportation if I need to buy goods weekly.”
— Project participant, Marampa.
Importance of alternative power sources
With access to solar products and energy, the cost of fuel is cushioned in some households for their daily lighting and running of appliances, such as freezers, used in their enterprises. With the SHE project, farmers’ dependence on fossil fuel will continue to lessen as more have access to electronic agro-processing machines that use mini-grid power and not fossil fuels.
If the rising costs for fuel and inputs continue until the end of the year, crop production and yield per unit area will decline, businesses will dwindle and farmers’ ability to cope with these shocks will be severely affected. The SHE project will, however, strive to cushion the effects by strengthening linkages of farmers (largely women) to financial services and make them less dependent on fossil fuel for their business operations.
This blog draws from the brief authored by Lamin Kamara.