Rotifunk, the seat of Bumpeh Chiefdom, was devastated in Sierra Leone’s 11-year civil war. About 55 miles southeast of the capital, Freetown, Rotifunk was hit hard as rebel soldiers burned and looted their way to the capital. Every building in the town of about 10,000 was burned except for a church and a mosque, and its people forced to flee. The town abandoned for several years. The result: total collapse of the socio-economic fabric, and a once bustling town found itself in abject poverty.
The war ended in 2001. Now a safe, peaceful, country, Sierra Leone is still, however, one where 70% of families struggle to survive in the aftermath of the civil war on $2 a day or less. This is true for the rural community of Rotifunk and Bumpeh Chiefdom where agriculture is the main livelihood.
Back on its feet, Rotifunk has rebuilt itself to once again serve as the center of trade, education and health care for the area. Rotifunk is known for its lively Saturday market, where farmers and small traders from across the chiefdom come to sell their wares. Fish from local rivers are plentiful, as well as locally grown fruit and vegetables. Rotifunk is preparing for its future by educating its children. Four secondary schools are now operating, including all-girls and Islamic schools.
2013 was a milestone year for Rotifunk.
More girls are going to secondary school in Bumpeh Chiefdom than ever before. With four secondary schools open in Rotifunk and Sherbro Foundation’s girls scholarship program, village girls who previously couldn’t afford it are advancing into a secondary school education.
A Community Bank opened that treats account holders as members and shareholders. Accounts can be opened for as little as Le15,000 (<$4 USD). This enables low income people to save in a safe place that invests bank holdings and pays interest, instead of charging steep fees. Saving small amounts of money for the future has long been a problem in rural areas.
The Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation was created in 2013 as a “community based organization” to lead community development projects for the chiefdom. This volunteer group focuses on education and economic empowerment. It has partnered with Sherbro Foundation to establish adult literacy and computer training programs, as well as manage a girls scholarship fund. A major drive is underway for chiefdom reforestation by planting 90,000 income producing trees over five years and setting up environmental management practices for the chiefdom. Villages will plant and manage their own orchards, with income from fruit and lumber going into community development projects at the small village level.
A UN funded Growth Center also opened in 2013 with equipment for small cottage industries. A wood fired oven bakes French style baguettes and a welding shop repairs motorbikes and other metal work. Still to be set up are a tailoring shop with routine and industrial sewing machines and a town cinema using a big screen TV for sports and other programs. A canteen is to provide drinks and refreshments. Individuals get job training in operating each service and small fees are charged that go into managing and later expanding services.
The Rotifunk hospital, once the envy of the whole country and destroyed in the war, has been reconstructed thanks to Norwegian donors. Plans are underway by the United Methodist Church mission to staff the hospital with health professionals in a range of disciplines and to outfit with up to date medical equipment. The UMC relationship and original mission doctors date back to the 1890’s. Sierra Leonean health professionals will now expand and run the hospital in 2014.
Rotifunk is indeed back on its feet and actively working to regain its place as a hub of services and excellence for rural Sierra Leone.