New African Society: Cultivating Seeds of Change in Sierra Leone’s Eastern Province

New African Society: Cultivating Seeds of Change in Sierra Leone’s Eastern Province

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New African Society (NAS), a youth-led Sierra Leone-based organization, is working for the development of self-sufficient communities to alleviate generations of poverty within the country. The organization offers services that promote the advancement of agricultural projects within the region, seeking to remedy a lack of opportunity for socioeconomic mobility and food insecurity.

“We have identified the problems our communities are faced with and the root causes of them, and we are working to bring about the various necessary strategies that will help curb the pervasiveness of these problems,” Ibrahim Bangura, the Founder and CEO of NAS, tells Food Tank.

The organization employs young agriculturists, rural development professionals, and social workers whose knowledge and experiences they feel are key in addressing social problems across the region.

Through ongoing engagement with community members, NAS began a seed banking initiative to help them work toward food sovereignty. Their training programs educate farmers on the value of seed banking, strengthening local understanding of seed systems, and helping producers establish independent seed banks in their own communities.

Bangura views seed banking as a multi-layered strategy that increases equitable opportunities within agriculture while retaining cultural integrity. “Our seed aid program is directly involved in engaging producer groups, especially women who are the custodians of local seed breeding and conservation, to multiply varieties of foundation seeds including rice, ground nut, maize and others,” he tells Food Tank.

Seed banking is the practice of collecting and preserving seeds as a means of ensuring food security, especially during planting periods when access to food becomes limited. Despite Sierra Leone’s apt climate conditions for food production, Bangura credits decades-long trauma from war and disease, as well as poor governance as the primary reasons for food insecurity within its Eastern Province.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, roughly 75 percent of Sierra Leone’s population is employed in the agricultural industry. These communities are primarily occupied by peasant farmers who survived mainly from small scale semi commercial and/or subsistence farming.

Bangura names underdeveloped transportation networks, limited purchasing power, and a lack of awareness about an individual’s or community’s right to a balanced diet as the “greatest barriers to accessing healthy, high-quality foods” within the region.

Seed banking, Bangura believes, signifies an immediate call to action against food insecurity and equips residents of rural communities with the necessary resources to combat future emergency periods.

NAS’ seed banking initiative also aims to promote agro-biodiversity, encouraging greater food sovereignty through “approaches to farming which incorporate the conservation, growth, consumption and commercialization of diversified food and seed varieties,” says Bangura. This comes at a time when communities are experiencing “the growing extinction of [their] nutrient-dense indigenous seed varieties in the farming system.”

Recently, NAS hosted its Seed Fair program—an event where farmers are given the opportunity to gather and share knowledge about the various uses of seeds, as well as participate in seed exchange. Bangura tells Food Tank, “The community seed fair is becoming an interesting program to farmers as they have learned the needs and impact of seed diversity in the farming system”.

The event included 50 farmers, who had the opportunity to interact in smaller groups and perform individual presentations. Other attendees were representatives of the Eastern Province’s Ministry of Agriculture, and key personalities from various NGOs with interest in agriculture and rural development programs.

The seed fair, offered as a recurring event for members and partners of NAS, provides every farmer an opportunity to secure different varieties of seeds, as well as learn about their maintenance and economic benefits.

“I hope to see New African Society-Sierra Leone as one of the leading organizations that are striving to bring changes in the development wings,” Bangura tells Food Tank, “we are striving to take actions for humanity and bring about developmental innovations to communities that have been left behind and where government support is hardly sufficient enough to reach.”

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Photo courtesy of New African Society

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