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This land is no longer a mining field

This land is no longer a mining field

Organizational surveys

Reclaiming land damaged by diamond mining to create new livelihoods in Sierra Leone


In the Kono district of eastern Sierra Leone, the yellow soil is barren and exposed, hollowed out by the relentless search for diamonds. Large areas of land in this region have been damaged and depleted due to loss of the top layer of soil, erosion and pollution. Many local communities have suffered from a history of conflict over the gemstones, which escalated into civil war in the 1990s.

Decades after this shock, the landscape and mentalities have changed. “There is life after mining,” says Success Stanley Lavalli, a 27-year-old farmer and representative of young farmers.

Despite his auspicious name, his professional journey has not been easy. In addition to mining, he held many informal jobs, such as selling phone cards on the street, before joining… Green Jobs Project for Rural Youth Employment Launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). This initiative aims to encourage green employment in agriculture among rural youth and offers them in Kono district the opportunity to contribute to the reclamation of land located in areas affected by mining.

This involves bringing in fertile soils and new organic matter. Using green mulch, mulch and natural pest control techniques, land is reclaimed for agriculture, particularly organic gardening and beekeeping. These efforts, along with agricultural skills training, help create employment opportunities for project participants and combat youth unemployment and rural poverty.

This land is no longer a mining field
This land is no longer a mining field

Young men and women, like Mr. Stanley (right/top) and Ms. Betty (left/bottom), are discovering new livelihoods that are transforming barren land into fertile plots for growing vegetables. ©FAO/Daniele Epifanio

In Sierra Leone, young people struggle to find meaningful job opportunities. Nearly a third of them do not work and are not enrolled in school or training.

More than 200 young people have joined the project nationally. Of the 15 participants from Kono district, most were previously employed in commercial or artisanal mining.

Agriculture now offers new possibilities. “We all grew up believing that diamonds were the only solution,” says Stanley, “but getting involved in agriculture had an impact on me, my community and even my community in his outfit. »

The project also helps build resilience to climate change by restoring the capacity of soils to store carbon and promoting irrigation technologies to make crops less susceptible to drought.

Abdulai Bangura, the organization’s national project coordinator in Sierra Leone, walks through a landscape still bearing signs of intensive mining and points to a greenhouse created as part of the project. “This will help us produce all year round,” he explains. “We are also preparing our seedbeds for production, as the rainy season will start in about two weeks.”

Youth participating in the project, working with a team from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and other partners, were able to transform a severely depleted plot of land into valuable agricultural land that now produces products such as tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelons. With improved soil fertility, they also grow local foodstuffs such as corn, peanuts and cassava.

This transformation of the territory is a global process. “We don’t just learn it, we do it,” Stanley says. “Now I have learned that I can plant a seed and I can grow it. I can use organic fertilizers to feed it. because we don’t use chemicals.

“Farming sparked something in me that nothing I had done before could do. »

This land is no longer a mining field

The greenhouse established as part of the organization’s project supports the production of fruits and vegetables all year round. Young farmers also grow local food products such as corn, peanuts and cassava. ©FAO/Daniele Epifanio

Beekeeping and honey production, as alternatives to mining, provide “a huge opportunity for young people in terms of local markets and export market as well” as young people and their families see improvement significant impact on their livelihoods, said Abdul Munu, president of the Mapunduka Association, a community farmers’ association involved in the project.

Betty Serai Sam, another representative of the young farmers, says that for the women working in the project – some of whom are also minors – the new job opportunities have also brought big changes to their lives. Before joining the project, she worked in various professions, from mining to teaching in a primary school.

With the income she earns from farming, Ms. Betty believes she is able to provide for her family in times of need. “…I can now earn some money here to distribute to my family and take care of my household chores myself,” she explains. “I am a strong woman.”

Improving livelihoods and empowering young people are among the main objectives of the project. With the support of this initiative, Mr Stanley believes that over the next five years he will be an “agricultural ambassador” implementing the lessons he learned from the project and encouraging more young people to join this agricultural enterprise.

With supporters like Mr. Stanley and Ms. Betty, the organization’s project proves that no land is too bad to abandon. All that is needed is the knowledge, tools and aspirations of young people who determine its future.

Links related to the topic

for more information

video tape: Green jobs for rural youth employment in Sierra Leone

Website: FAO and decent rural work

Website: FAO Country Profiles: Sierra Leone

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