Building peace and livelihoods in Sierra Leone
Joint World Food Programme (WFP) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project will support 2,500 women and young farmers
A recently-launched, community-driven peacebuilding project implemented jointly by the World Food Programme (WFP) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) aims to mitigate local conflicts between communities, government and private companies by building the capacities of national and local institutions which foster peace and inclusivity, promoting peaceful relations and the integration of women and youth farmers.
The peacebuilding project — which will benefit 2,500 people — will focus on the Moyamba and Pujehun districts, where land acquisitions and widespread degradation of farming lands are having a deep impact on communities, who mainly rely on agriculture for their means of livelihood and have suffered a reduction in agricultural production, access to food and income.
The 2,500 women and young farmers participating in the project will benefit from training in developing irrigation, nutrition agriculture, food processing, and linking their production to markets. Women were found to be among the worst-affected by large-scale land acquisitions, with the majority indicating they lacked access to agricultural land and had little or no knowledge of their rights under the 2015 National Land Policy.
Lack of access to diversified seeds has also resulted in under-utilization of available arable land and low consumption of nutritious foods. This, in turn, has resulted in malnutrition among younger children and pregnant girls. In Lower Banta Chiefdom of Moyamba district, women reported high rates of unwanted pregnancy among adolescent girls, leading to them dropping out of school and facing discrimination.
“One of the drivers of conflict has been the lack of resources. Sierra Leone is no longer a fragile country. We have moved even from peacebuilding to peace consolidation. We want to sustain the peace that has already been established in the country … One of the issues that this project is intending to address is the issue of livelihoods, providing alternative means of livelihood for the people of Moyamba and Pujehun districts,” said Mrs. Francess Piagie Alghali, from the Office of the Vice President of Sierra Leone.
The Office of the Vice President was the main government branch that initiated the project design process in partnership with national stakeholders, communities and the private sector, as part of efforts to advance the objectives of the 2019–23 Mid-Term National Development Plan and achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Activities were identified and shaped directly with communities on the basis of extensive grassroots consultations and evidence-based resources.
The community-driven approach plays a crucial role in inclusivity to truly reflect the needs of affected communities and bring to life the “Triple Nexus” of humanitarian assistance, development and peacebuilding. As a result, the lives of many of those who need it most will be enhanced.
The peacebuilding project will mitigate local conflicts between communities, government and private companies by focusing on two key approaches: building capacities and supporting livelihoods.
The former involves promoting inclusive institutions and dialogue platforms at national, district and chiefdom levels to facilitate peaceful relations while strengthening the existing regulatory framework on land acquisition. The latter involves supporting the most vulnerable affected populations to reduce social tensions and mitigate local conflicts.
The project will also support the Government in strengthening existing policy frameworks, including enhancing coordination and monitoring of the Sierra Leone Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (SLEITI) and Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forestry (VGGT) for enhanced community and business partnerships. This will include targeted trainings for private sector staff in conflict mediation, human rights, sexual exploitation, gender-based violence and community engagement.
“We have now a big responsibility, as stakeholders of this project, to respond to the mandate given to us to deliver tangible results for the people, promote local dialogue processes and ensure people’s participation in seeking acceptable solutions that can generate a balance between the rights of the local population and need of the country for investments,” said Mr. Sunil Saigal, UN Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone
To support the most vulnerable people and those furthest behind, WFP and UNDP will focus on gender-transformative initiatives through agricultural programmes, asset-creation activities, and vocational trainings that will empower women and youth.
Through the peacebuilding initiative, both agencies will provide much needed support to vulnerable community members, including 2,500 women and youth farmers with agricultural livelihood support and trainings through development of irrigated lowland sites, nutrition-sensitive agriculture in the cultivation of vegetables, value-chain strengthening by building agricultural processing capacities, and linking farmers to markets through private-sector companies and through the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, which links local agricultural production to the school feeding supply chain.
WFP and UNDP will collaborate with various line Ministries, Departments and Agencies to strengthen Multi-stakeholder Platforms convened at district-level, including bringing together diverse stakeholders to troubleshoot challenges and support community-development. Additionally, guiding a community-based participatory planning approach that will put communities, particularly women and young people, at the forefront of the development process.
WFP will use community-based participatory planning to empower communities to develop their assets base,” said Dr Housainou Taal, WFP Representative and Country Director, Sierra Leone, making a special reference to those communities where it “will be targeting mainly women and youth.”
“UNDP will be facilitating and supporting the dialogue platforms between the community members, local governments and the private sectors. Peaceful relationship will be strengthened, and social tensions will be reduced. This is a pilot project to test out this idea of dialogue that hopefully could be expanded to other communities in the future,” added Dr Samuel Doe, Country Resident Representative for UNDP.
The Government of Sierra Leone has increased its commitments to improving relations between private sector companies and local communities to create an economic environment that is conducive to inclusive growth. This is demonstrated by the introduction of three policies recently launched by the Office of the Vice President to enhance transparency and development of the mining sector, specifically the 2019 Sierra Leone Mineral Sector Benchmarking Assessment Report. the Geo-data Management Policy, and the Artisanal Mining Policy.
These policies seek to collectively enhance intergovernmental and stakeholder coordination of the mining sector, improve revenue management and foster more equitable distribution of benefits, including enhancing the corporate social responsibility of companies operating in Sierra Leone.