Workshops

WASAE West Africa Society of Agricultural Engineering

WASAE Workshops

 

16-19 July 2016 KENEMA VAGBOI, SIERRA LEONE

 

HOPE FOR A NEW DAY IN SIERRA LEONE FOR SMALL RUMINANTS

 

Small ruminants are very well known all over Sierra Leone. Although we love the meat but we refer to them as a nuisance because raising them does not go down well with crop farming. The choice for the type of them varies between sheep and goats depending upon the community. In the “Kpaa Mende” area in Sierra Leone, goats are more highly favoured. This is the case in Kenema Vagboi, where we held a workshop from 16th to 19th July 2016.

 

Kenema Vagboi is a small village of about five hundred inhabitants. It sits in the river basin to the west of the Tiaa River. About ten miles away, across the Tiai River, sits the Njala Campus of the Njala University.

 

The Njala University is the oldest, largest and highest Academic Institution where agricultural sciences are taught and studied in Sierra Leone. This campus is my Alma Mata and where I was a lecturer in Agricultural Engineering for ten years.

 

Kenema Vagboi is in relation with the Njala Campus for over ten years, yet the farmers of Kenema Vagboi practise traditional farming, like most other farmers in Sierra Leone. This then raises many other questions in my mind which I now raise:

 

  1. Do our academic institutions in Sierra Leone create any impact in the life of our people, especially those in the rural communities, and most specifically the farmers?
  2. Kenema Vagboi is within a radius of ten miles from the Njala Campus yet it appears that there is little to show for their relation for over eighty years. Do other villages within the same range have any marked difference, for the better, to show?
  3. If these villages feel there is little or nothing to show, then where lies the problem and what value are our academic institutions adding to the nation?
  4. Could this be a very good research topic that needs the attention of a multi-disciplinary team of academics and practitioners?
  5. Why did I not think of this when I was a student at this campus for four years and then also a lecturer for ten years? “So help me God, so help me God.”
  6. If you visit Kenema Vagboi, you will come across broken-down machinery such as tractors, combine harvesters, rice threshers, ploughs, harrows, etc. (in fact the Church bell of the Presbyterian Church in this village is the mole board and a mole board plough.) All these are clear indicators that there had been a mechanised farming programme in this village. What happened to it and was the impact on this community?
  7. If so much was invested into mechanised farming in this village, yet with little or no impact on the community and the life of the people in this community, then what hope is there for us to invest in mechanised farming in Sierra Leone?
  8. If you visit Kenema Vagboi today, you will not see any activities going on that are undertaken by either the Njala Campus or the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security. Why ‘no more?’
  9. Of course Njala Campus and/or the Ministry (or even a fool) can use Question No. 7 above to answer the query in Question No. 8 above. Does this mean that we do not have a Plan A, Plan B and/or Plan C in working in these rural communities and/or in any situation?

 

PLAN B SYSTEM

 

The Plan B System is a very common and excellent phenomenon in everyday life. The Social Security System is a Plan B undertaking that when you retire and no longer earn a salary, the Social Security will be your next source of income. Saving money is Plan B for the day when you need a big sum of money but you don’t have it ready at hand. Death is a Plan B for life here on earth. Are you preparing for heaven by worshipping God or for hell by rejecting God?

 

God who is Almighty makes many plan Bs. His Plan A is a perfect and sinless life. His Plan B is redemption and salvation in Jesus Christ. Saint Paul once said, “But God has shown us how much he loves us - it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! By his blood we are now put right with God; how much more, then, will we be saved by him from God's anger!”

(Romans 5:8-9 GNB)

 

PLAN B OR C FOR KENEMA VAGBOI

 

A number of people and organisations have come together to put a plan B/C for Kenema Vagboi. These people/organisations are:

 

  1. Rev. Dr. David Musa of SAVE SL/USA.
  2. Sis. Dr. Dian and Bro. Peter Dickson of Shepherd’s Cross USA. (Dian is a veterinary doctor and sheep farmer. Peter, her husband works at a bank in the USA.)
  3. Sis. Mrs Chris Falman, from a family line of great cooks. (USA)
  4. Bro. Nelson Clement, a freelance consultant in Sierra Leone.
  5. Bro. Daniel S. Moiforay of the animal Science Department of the Njala Campus.
  6. Rev. Musa J. Jambawai, a retired Minister of the Methodist Church Sierra Leone, and farmer of the “Mu Lii Valamei Farms,” Kpetema/Bunumbu.

 

Plan B for Kenema Vagboi started in in 2014, when the first workshop was to be held. The Ebola situation in Sierra Leone then did not allow it. However, we were able to make it in 2016. We met in Kenema Vagboi from 6th to 10th July 2016. Raising small ruminants is our focus. We have started with sheep because “Jesus is our “Chief Shepherd”. “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glorious crown which will never lose its brightness.”(1Pe 5:4 GNB)

 

About fifty farmers (men and women) from six villages in the community met at Kenema Vagboi from 6th to 10th July 2016. Our vision is “to enhance food security in the Kenema Vagboi community,” with the specific goals that “farmers acquire skills in food preservation and small ruminant production.”

 

THE PROBLEM

 

Before this workshop in July 2016, the problems of food preservation and raising small ruminants came to our notice as the farmers reported. At this workshop the participants elaborated very clearly and it came out very strongly as following:

 

  1. Farmers in the community produce a lot of fruits and vegetables in the respective cropping seasons. They eat as much as they can and are forced to sell what is left over, (mostly at give-away prices,) because they lack skills and resource materials to carefully and safely preserve their produce.
  2. There are too few small ruminants in the community due to:
  1. The lack of funds to purchase and maintain a sizeable stock of animals.
  2. The lack of facilities to control and/or treat infections.
  3. The lack of measures to protect the animals from predators.
  4. The lack control measures to minimise clashes between crop farmers and those who raise animals.
  5. The lack of fencing facilities to keep the animals out of homes, residential areas and crop farms.

This is just to count a few.

 

Even though I lived on the Njala Campus for fourteen years, and visited every department, (even the Home Economics Department) I was fascinated by the pineapple and coconut products that were sealed in glass jars, carefully and safely preserved. It was prepared by Chris and her group of participants. The months of June and July are months of the second pineapple season in the Kenema Vagboi community. We enjoyed a lot sweet and juicy pineapple for our desserts.

 

Let me cite one of the clashes between crop farmers and those who raise goats in the Kenema Vagboi community. A month before the date for this workshop, a very big goat was bought which was to provide meat for our meals. A week before the start of the workshop, the goat went out to graze and tried to force its way into one of the rice fields near the village. The goat was caught in a trap that the farmer has set round his farm to catch rodents that would come to his farm. We lost that good goat.

 

THE DAWNING OF A NEW DAY?

 

To address the problems of goats roaming about and going into rice fields and destroying the crops, participants raise the following questions and came up with the respective suggestions:

 

  1. Why do animals force their way into crops fields and thereby get wounded or killed in the process?
  1. They go in search of pasture because there is no grazing land allocated to them.
  1. What can we do to minimise the roaming about of our animals and forcing their way into crop fields?
  1. We should set aside a large plot of land to animals specifically for grazing.
  2. We should develop and maintain the grazing land and plant there quality pasture and fodder crops.
  3. There should abundant and fresh pasture and fodder always.
  1. How can we protect the grazing ground against crop farmers and the extending of the village?
  1. Anyone who plants any crops on the grazing ground does so at his/her own risk because it shall be pasture or fodder for the animals.
  2. Any structure built on that land shall become a property of the animals.
  3. Even if the village shall grow around the grazing land, so be it.

 

The participants from the six villages represented pledged as following:

 

  1. Each village shall set aside three to ten acres of land to become the grazing land for the animals.
  2. This must be done by December 2016 at the latest.
  3. Each village set a record of all participants who want to undertake this work, and each person shall sign up or thumb print.
  4. A record shall be kept of activities and those who will participate.
  5. The development of this work shall be the sole responsibility of participants who are willing to undertake this work.
  6. Bro. Daniel Moiforay and Rev. Musa Jambawai will work with each village to identify a suitable site for a grazing land and provide the planting materials.
  7. Bro. Daniel Moiforay and Rev. Musa Jambawai will link up with the teams in the USA to make available resource materials that are not available in Sierra Leone.
  8. The teams in the USA will assist as much as they can.

 

Kenema Vagboi hosted this workshop. As their reward, they were awarded seven ewes and one ram (all healthy and within one year of age,) as the seed stock. It was with the condition that the other five villages will work Kenema Vagboi from now to raise those animals and the other villages will get a share and also other resources as they become available.

 

Rev. Musa J. Jambawai