It is estimated that 70 percent of Sierra Leone’s population lives in poverty. In 2009, the International Food Policy Research Institute ranked Sierra Leone among the five countries with the highest global hunger index score and among the six most severely affected by and vulnerable to the global economic downturn. In 2011, the World Food Program reported that 45 percent of Sierra Leonean households are food insecure during the lean season—June through September—with rural populations facing higher risk. Over one-third of the country’s children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition, and one in eight women will die from pregnancy-related causes.
Combating Hunger in Sierra Leone
In June 2010, USAID awarded ACDI/VOCA a five-year, $60 million PL 480 Title II program to be implemented with the International Medical Corps and Opportunities Industrialization Center International. The program operates in the districts of Tonkolili, Bombali, Kailahun, and Koinadugu to increase resiliency and reduce food insecurity among vulnerable populations. The Sustainable Nutrition and Agriculture Promotion (SNAP) program will reach over 400,000 vulnerable individuals by the project’s end.
SNAP reduces food insecurity and increases resiliency among the most vulnerable rural populations by utilizing an integrated approach. The integrated approach ensures access to food through direct distribution—thus improving health and nutrition—while also promoting improved literacy and sustainable livelihood activities for the same households. SNAP integrates cross-cutting themes into program interventions including resiliency to shocks, productive youth, gender equity, environmental stewardship and good governance. Specifically, ACDI/ VOCA and its partners are implementing the program in 18 impoverished chiefdoms to address the following two strategic objectives:
- Reduced chronic malnutrition among children under five
- Enhanced livelihoods for vulnerable people, especially women and youth
Objective 1: Reduce Chronic Malnutrition among Children under 5
PM2A combines health capacity building, behavior change communication and food aid to provide a bridge toward long-term, sustainable improvements in health, sanitation and nutrition. SNAP implements a “preventing malnutrition in children under two” approach (PM2A). It targets more than 50,000000 mother-child pairs with monthly trainings and direct ration distribution for pregnant and lactating women and children up to 23 months of age. In addition to the mother-child ration, the program appliesprovides protective rations, providing with of oil, bulgur, and lentils during the lean season to fight hunger during that challenging time of the year.
SNAP engages local health services and communities at large with trainings and rehabilitation projects. ACDI/VOCA does this to ensure that all children under five in the rural communities where SNAP operates will benefit from improved health opportunities, nutritional and hygienic knowledge, and superior family decision making. Medicines are being provided to peripheral health units as gifts-in-kind. Health workers and community-based organizations are enlisted to conduct public informational gatherings to help foster community ownership, which is essential to sustainable impact.
Objective 2: Enhance Livelihoods for Vulnerable People, Especially Women and Youth
SNAP enhances livelihood opportunities for more than 45,000 individuals in the same communities where the program addresses chronic malnutrition. SNAP works to improve the value chains for rice, cassava, sorghum, pigeon pea, cow pea, sesame, oil palm, groundnuts, sweet potato, and garden vegetables. Agricultural production and post-harvest handling techniques are being areimproved through hands-on training and demonstration plots.
ACDI/VOCA’s Farming as a Family Business (FaaFB) curriculum empowers farmers to become more competitive and better manage their farms’ inputs and outputs. The training is carefully done and takes into consideration gender roles within households. SNAP also takes care in its literacy and numeracy trainings to make them easier for women to attend. It redesigned these trainings to occur over a longer time span, increasing from three months to five months, in order for women to more easily attend given their other household duties. SNAP also works actively to include a greater population of women participating in mother care groups, members participating in village savings and loans groupstechnical trainings, farmer field schools, and commercial farming clusters.
In addition to farming activities, the program provides vocational training to expand opportunities for households to diversify their income sources. Participants learn soap-making and gara tie-dying (gara are intricate, beautifully tie-dyed and batiked cotton fabrics).
As of January 2014, SNAP has
- Distributed more than 3,632 MT of food aid commodities to 32,245 PM2A households
- Provided 1,842 youth vocational trainings
- Graduated 555 farmer field schools into producer or marketing associations
- Introduced 98 biosand filters equipped with covered buckets
- Formed and trained 220 mother care groups in at least four module courses
- Supported 123 peripheral health units in delivering health services to communities in the most remote districts, resulting in increased use of clinical services
- Launched the “Men as Partners” initiative, where men act as change agents in their communities, with 615 self-motivated men—five per health unit—identified across the four districts
- Improved diets with 85,734 farmers reporting eating micronutrient-rich foods as a result of participation in SNAP’s farmer field schools
- Intensified gender mainstreaming and gender sensitization trainings, resulting in 49 percent of village savings and loans groups chaired by women and 62 percent of commercial farming clusters with women in leadership positions
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