Sierra Leone has an “alarming” level of hunger; the country’s 2012 GHI score is 24.7.
Over fifty percent of the population depends on farming for its livelihood.
The government has intensified efforts to commercialize the agriculture sector and campaigned to attract foreign direct investment in agriculture.
Foreign enterprises have acquired approximately 20 percent of available agricultural land in the country. Between 2008 and mid-2012, almost 1 million hectares of farmland across the country were leased or under negotiation for lease.
Welthungerhilfe has been working with smallholders in Pujehun District since 2007, to rehabilitate infrastructure, increase incomes, and foster food security through efficient and environmentally safe use of available natural resources.
Recent land deals have raised concerns in the way in which the acquisition is decided upon and the impact on local food and livelihood security as farmers no longer have access to agricultural land.
Rural land in Sierra Leone is held by landowning families, with a chieftaincy structure. Traditionally land is not leased but allocated. Statutory law, however, provides a procedure for non-natives to acquire leaseholds, requiring the consent of both the chiefdom and local councils. Investors can either lease land directly from the landowners or sublease from the government as the primary leaseholder.
Between May 2011 and May 2012, market prices for food in the region affected by the large-scale land acquisitions have risen by 27 percent, on average. As the price of food rises, access to sufficient food is becoming an issue of concern for smallholders.
Welthungerhilfe and its partners are working to raise awareness about the risks of large-scale foreign direct land investments and to promote alternative models of agricultural investments.