Who Said This Isn’t Women’s Work

Who Said This Isn’t Women’s Work

Zainab is now a Bumpeh Chiefdom truck driver. You won’t see another woman driving a truck in the chiefdom, and I doubt anywhere in Moyamba district or most of Sierra Leone’s rural districts.

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It’s a mini truck, but a vital part of our partner CCET-SL’s Orchards for Education project, carrying loads and workers from project fields to town in Rotifunk. Importantly, it’s a full time wage-paying job – another rarity in the chiefdom for man or woman.

Orchards for Education will create income for chiefdom children’s education. Another objective is to create local employment, with women hired wherever possible. When a truck driver was needed, the project’s response was, who said this isn’t women’s work?

IMG-20191025-WA0025 (2) The mini-truck, locally called a keke, is an easy and economical way to carry small loads the short distance from the project fields back into town. Here it’s being loaded with newly harvested rice sheaves.

Zainab was one of the first woman seasonal workers hired at the new vegetable growing swamp project, or IVS. Vegetables or rice are being grown year-round for income to operate the orchards before fruit trees mature and bear fruit

While at the IVS, Zainab did well, taking responsibility and showing initiative. She was the women workers leader, responsible for sharing work assignments with the other women. She was good at monitoring them to ensure that work was done effectively and efficiently. And, she voluntarily sold the IVS produce at the weekly market.

Paramount Chief Caulker is a strong women’s advocate. When the project bought the mini-truck, locally called a keke, he said hire a woman driver. Zainab was the clear choice for the vehicle, a motorcycle pulling a small flat-bed.

IMG-20191025-WA0024 (2)Loaded with rice and workers, Zainab carries all back from the fields to town.

Zainab had never driven any vehicle, motorcycle or otherwise. She started her training on a regular motorcycle a week before the keke’s arrival. She quickly moved on to the keke. Last week the keys were handed over to her and she is now the project’s first full-time female worker.

Who said women can’t drive a truck? Zainab showed they can. After the rice harvest, she’ll be carrying a water tank on the keke around the orchard keeping young fruit tree seedlings watered throughout the coming dry season.

 

Concept to Harvest in 5 Months –  the Women’s Vegetable Growing Project

Concept to Harvest in 5 Months – the Women’s Vegetable Growing Project

Just shy of five months from our first March phone call on the Bumpeh Chiefdom Women’s Vegetable Growing Project, women are harvesting their first crops.

I got the pictures of the peanut harvest Sunday.  It’s a good crop, Mrs. Kaimbay told me. She leads our partner organization, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation (CCET), who organized and started this first time project.

She and local teachers Mr. Sonnah and Mr. Phoday got the vegetable project started in April – at the same time they were restarting school that had been closed for nine months because of Ebola.

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Now in late July, these women in the project’s first group of farmers were harvesting their groundnuts. The corn in the background will be ready soon, together with okra and cucumbers.

It was only in early March that I first asked, what can Sherbro Foundation do to help people whose incomes were slashed during the Ebola crisis.  Help women farmers start fast growing cash crops was the answer. Peanuts and vegetables.

Veg - grountnut harvesting 2What we call peanuts are groundnuts in Africa. That’s because they grow in the ground. They’re actually legumes, not nuts. They’re an important source of protein in the African diet, commonly ground into a paste for soups and stews.
Or eaten straight up, after roasting in a pan. Groundnuts are also enjoyed boiled in the shell.

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Here’s what groundnuts look like when they’re harvested.  They grow as nodules among the roots of the plant. You dig them up like harvesting potatoes. Then spread them out in the sun to dry.


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The Women’s Vegetable Growing project will continue to expand and add new groups of farmers. The thirty five women in this first group will donate seed back to the project for the next group of farmers – a bag of groundnuts and a cup of seed from each of their three vegetable crops.

The women will still net at least three to four times our initial investment of $75 in each farmer. They’ll be ready to start their second crops in September themselves, followed by a third crop in their first year.

In the meantime, new groups of women farmers will be given their start.  In the project’s first twelve months, we should be able to have groups of 30+ farmers producing crops six times.

Workshop on erosion control.

Workshop on erosion control.

The women selected for the project are single heads of large households. They get the use of community land set aside in the chiefdom for special projects. They get training on topics like planting and erosion control, and ongoing support.

Importantly, they now know what empowerment feels like. They’re farming themselves and becoming self sufficient.

Sherbro Foundation and our partner CCET take on practical projects that are simple to implement and which quickly benefit the poorest people in the chiefdom.

We don’t wait years to see lives improved while bureaucracy and overhead are created. We do it within months.