Sierra Leone was officially declared Ebola free in March 2016, however communities still struggle with the devastation caused by the disease. The outbreak has had long-lasting consequences, not only in terms in loss of live. At the peak of the epidemic the country was effectively shut down, causing massive disruption to people’s livelihoods.
Many households were placed under quarantine. Unable to access their crops, harvests were lost. The small amount of produce farmers did have was consumed early, leaving families with a large hunger gap they were unable to fill. With no access to markets to sell and earn a living, the ability of communities to generate income was severely inhibited.
Concern, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has established a Post Ebola Livelihood Security Project designed to help rebuild communities’ livelihoods and make them more resilient to future shocks. The project targets Ebola survivors, dependents of people who died from Ebola as well as farmers whose livelihoods suffered as a result of restrictions put in place during the epidemic.
Salay and her three children all contracted the disease. Today, with Concern’s support, Salay’s family are now on the road to recovery along with the rest of their community.
Concern met Salay at a meeting of her village’s saving and loan group, one of the key elements of the project. She could not emphasise enough how important this initiative was to her and her community.
The saving and loan groups are just one part of this wide-ranging project. Salay is also a member of a women’s farming cooperative who rotate work on each other’s farms, with members who do not own land receiving money for their labour instead. With seeds and tools provided by Concern through Farmer Field Schools, the community are now able to feed their families and diversify diet by growing new vegetables.
When asked about the biggest improvement the project has made to her life, Salay does not hesitate.