Sierra Leone: Farmers evading Ebola leave crops to rot (Bloomberg)

| August 18, 2014

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Brima Kendor is a plantation owner and spokesperson for the local chief in Kissi Tongi, a village in the Kailahun District of eastern Sierra Leone. He says: “Ebola has left with us with a high number of orphans who cannot take care of themselves and family plantations. This is the time to rehabilitate the cocoa farms but we can’t do that now.”

The Ebola outbreak is forcing farmers and their families to flee cocoa, rice and peanut plantations across eastern and northern Sierra Leone. Kailahun District borders both Guinea and Liberia, whose citizens are also experiencing the hemorrhagic fever that has no cure or treatment.

Edmond Saidu is the district agriculture officer in Kailahun District. He says the cocoa harvest will suffer this year and that farmers will likely leave peanuts and rice in the fields.

According to the World Bank, agriculture contributes nearly 60 per cent of the economy in Sierra Leone. But abandoned farms threaten to halt economic recovery in a country struggling to rebuild after a ten-year civil war left its infrastructure in ruins.

More than 900 people have died in West Africa since Ebola was first reported in Guinea in March of 2014, according to the BBC. The World Health Organization, or WHO, believes that the virus will probably spread for four more months in West Africa.

Control of the disease is being hampered by traditional burial practices, poor hygiene and a lack of adequate medical care, according to WHO. Sierra Leone had recorded 146 deaths and 435 confirmed cases of Ebola by the end of July, according to the Ministry of Health.

Henry Yamba Kamara is the managing director of Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Company, the state-owned producer and buyer. He says some international companies have refused to visit the Kailahun area to buy cocoa.

Mr. Kamara says, “The buyers have refused to go in. The outcome will be either the cocoa will rot, or nobody will be there to buy.”

Kailahun District, where most of the Ebola cases have been confirmed, is the largest producer of cocoa in Sierra Leone. Agriculture is the major economic activity in the district.

The district agriculture officer in Kailahun, Mr. Saidu, says: “This is the ploughing season, especially for swamp rice cultivation, and this is also the time for the first harvesting of cocoa in the rains.” But, he says, there is not much activity in the fields at the moment.

To read the full article on which this story was based, Ebola Orphans Flee Sierra Leone Farms as Cocoa and Rice Rot, go to:

The World Bank is working with the World Health Organization, the United Nations and other development partners to support the governments of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to contain the spread of the Ebola virus. To hear or download an audio clip about the situation on SoundCloud, go to: