Ta-Valema Permaculture Farm & Learning Lab: The point of germination
Our social enterprise coops grow economies in/among villages, generate income, and regenerate connectedness with history, people & the earth
*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field
Mondema villagers are not just beneficiaries or users. They are producers of knowledge and agents of change who decided to build on their existing skills, relationships, and values by co-creating Ta-Valema Permaculture Farm & Learning Lab. Unlike programming that prescribes linear reduction to root causes, Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy’s Experience Map honors villagers’ understanding of their problems as having multiple causes and exponential effects, and showing mutual causality.
Beyond feeding Dovalema Early Childhood Coop children and staff, Ta-Valema's Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Social Enterprise Cooperative (SEC) will store and sell seeds and seedlings to ensure food sovereignty, facilitate reforestation, and rebuild Mondema's soil. In addition, the CSA SEC will revive traditions that sustainably use indigenous plants, such as black soap. These women are re-learning the dying art of rotating crops, which is more sustainable than slash-and-burn.
Ta-Valema Arts & Culture Social Enterprise Cooperative is intended to preserve the act of collective self-representation and -expression in an effort to reconnect villagers not only with their history and not only with their creativity, but also with their traditions for healing and growth. Mustafa Ndojai, the current leader, comes from a family of artists and uses natural materials. He identified the need for increased storage space as well as materials or funding to make or buy instruments.
Ta-Valema's Bakery Social Enterprise Cooperative provides Dovalema Early Childhood Coop children and staff with breakfast daily, besides serving as the village bakery. As SLFND's longest-running SEC, its current leader Wurie Barrie was easily able to identify what would make things better: 1) more members; 2) more oven structures; 3) packaging for distribution throughout nearby villages; 4) bicycles for distribution to the closest villages and a motorbike for others.
Recruitment in Ta-Valema Social Enterprise Cooperatives is intentional with respect to ensuring that opportunities for income generation and leadership development as well as connectedness, healing, and growth are available to citizens of all ages, genders, religions, and ability statuses. Marie is a member of the Welding Social Enterprise Cooperative. The welding services they provide will help Mondema villagers whose vehicles or other equipment have broken down, letting them continue working.
These women from Mondema are part of Ta-Valema’s Textiles & Tailoring Social Enterprise Cooperative. Beyond generating income for themselves, Dovalema Early Childhood Coop, and the village as a whole, they are regenerating traditional arts and the sustainable use of biodegradable materials. Marketing their own work locally, domestically, and internationally will build intra- and inter-village economies to reduce dependence on foreign donors for basic clothing, food, education, and health.
Ta-Valema means “the point of germination”. Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy's Ta-Valema Permaculture Farm & Learning Lab serves as a laboratory for all village children, adults, and elders to resurrect, learn, and cultivate new ways of sustaining themselves and the village as a whole. Its Social Enterprise Cooperatives grow economies in and among villages to generate income and regenerate connectedness across time, peoples, and nature.
Ansu Sharrif is 28. He comes from a farming family and has no formal schooling. He engaged in small scale carpentry until he became aware of Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy.
Key characteristics of Ansu follow: The first 10 years of Ansu’s life were spent surviving the civil war. His family hid in the forest that is behind where Ta-Valema Permaculture Farm & Learning Lab are now located. As a child, he joined the Civil Defense Force (Kamajors)—civilians who organized and armed themselves in an attempt to protect their families and communities from both rebel and government soldiers.
Ansu uses the skills, relationships, and values he has already developed: When the war ended, Ansu started working in the mines. Once the Disarmament, Demobilization & Reintegration program made reintegration training available, he participated ina carpentry apprenticeship. Ansu gained carpentry skills and engages in small carpentry jobs but cannot feed his family without tools, space, or access to markets.
Ansu experiences democracy in action: Ansu participates in a village-wide meeting convened by SLFND and the paramount chief. The meeting structure and process draw from traditionsof democracy and inquiry that allow all voices to be heard, all participants a chance to lead, and all systems to honor and build from what is working well. He contributes to the village’s consensus that SLFND start by building on the value it places on its children.
Ansu acts as a producer and agent of change: Ansu contributes his skills and labor to build Dovalema Early Childhood Coop. In the process, he gains additional practice and develops supportive relationships with carpentersof varying genders, levels of experience, ages, and ability statuses. Seeing the children use his work, Ansu begins to see his struggles and his contributions as part of something bigger.
Ansu enrolls his child in Dovalema Early Childhood Coop: Ansu and his wife enroll their 2-year-old boy Yayah in the nearly completed Dovalema Early Childhood Coop. They continue contributing 8 hours per month to Dovalema and the surrounding farm as part of the enrollment agreement. With the farm and school running, he joins SLFND and other villagers in building the Social Enterprise Cooperatives.
Ansu joins the Social Enterprise Cooperative: Relieved to have his child safe in Dovalema and fed 2 mealsa day from Ta-Valema Permaculture Farm, Ansu becomes a member of the Carpentry Social Enterprise Cooperative. Ansu gains access to a safe, distraction-free space and tools. He learns how to develop new markets, negotiate contracts, and advocate for associated infrastructure (e.g., roads).
Ansu refines and develops skills and relationships:
He and other members remind each other of the traditional handiwork that used to decorate doors and windows. They experiment with bamboo and practice the “Cut 1, Plant 3” motto. The Social Enterprise Coop’s rotating leadership and cooperative structureallow Ansu to practice—and model for his children and other villagers—non-adversarial relationships and decision making.
Ansu generates income for family, SLFND and his village: With enough inventory, a larger presence, and a recognizable identity as a group, Ansu can sell his work to residents of Mondema and nearby villages. After contributing to a reserve fund for maintenance and the Central Office’s administrative costs, Ansu takes home enough earnings for his family’s well-being. Ansu’s work and the coop’s contribution to SLFND’s organizational budget minimize the village’s dependence on outside donors.
Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)
A year ago exactly, a massive landslide slipped into the Babadorie River Valley, exacerbating existing flooding in Freetown, Sierra Leone. It affected 6,000 people; 1,141 are declared dead or missing. Between March 2014 and March 2016, Sierra Leone had 14,124 total cases of Ebola, resulting in 3,956 deaths. From 1991 to 2002, Sierra Leone experienced a civil war that displaced 2.6 million people and resulted in 70,000 casualties.
Mondema villagers understand these various sources of trauma as both related and unjust: Considering its minerals, plants, and human thirst for knowledge—illustrated by the moniker “the Athens of West Africa”—Sierra Leone is one of the most resource-full countries.
Because the trauma Sierra Leone faces is part of a larger ecosystem, Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy’s idea is as well. Drawing on ancestral values of interdependence, villagers said SLFND’s response must challenge extractive, exploitative dynamics of domination and subordination.
Sierra Leone’s villagers have not experienced conditions favorable for creativity and growth in a
long time. As with most groups experiencing poverty, violence, and disease, the unrelenting onslaught of setbacks is not random but arises from a web of very specific policies and practices. Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy focuses on the extractive and exploitative relationships that link so many of them,
as shown in the following slides.
In this interview, SLFND Founder & Executive Hindolo Pokawa, board member and early childhood education expert Kim Kokett, and volunteer Louis Alemayehu discuss the interrelatedness of land/nature, education/culture, and economics/finance as especially pivotal to Africa from the perspective of collective self-determination.
How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)
Ta-Valema Permaculture Farm & Learning Lab fits in rural Sierra Leone, where agriculture is the largest source of subsistence and petty trade is next. Rural poverty, violence, and disease are linked to neocolonialism, military dictatorship, the structural adjustment policies of the World Bank and IMF—which mandate small government and free trade for countries receiving aid—the war, and rural out-migration. These foster extractive and exploitative relationships among peoples and with the earth.
How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)
Our Social Enterprise Coops disrupt extractive, exploitative patterns by:
* documenting and employing sustainable use of local materials and knowledge
* producing and selling items locally to generate income and reduce the cost of living
* growing inter- and intra-village economies
* practicing and modeling non-adversarial relationships and decision making
* rotating roles and integrating critical reflection about power dynamics
* growing pride, investment & advocacy on behalf of villages
Collective trauma is similar to individual trauma in that healing is difficult if the pattern of domination and subordination continues. Ta-Valema Permaculture Farm & Learning Lab builds the foundation for a new democracy based on non-adversarial relationships and decision making through cooperative economics and sustainable social enterprise, challenging the dynamics of domination and subordination inherent in exploitative and extractive industry and practices.
Soon after completing his certification in permaculture, Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy Founder & Executive Director Hindolo Pokawa was asked to share how he plans to integrate his deepened understanding of land/nature with education/culture. At this time, SLFND was still planning to start a pilot with 50 children as it had been advised. Those plans changed in the process of co-creation and collaboration with Mondema community members, who said all families must have access.
Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy Founder & Executive Director Hindolo Pokawa explains the innovative shift in SLFND's original mission--inspired by his experience with his daughter--wherein issues of governance and civic engagement are addressed holistically rather than in isolation.
What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)
Within 10 years, we expect to see an economically, politically, culturally, and environmentally sustainable cooperative economy within Mondema and across its 4 neighboring villages. SLFND’s commitment against extractive and exploitative relationships involves ensuring that the Social Enterprise Coops can sustain themselves in 5 years. Within 3 years, each coop is expected to feed—literally and figuratively—its members, other coops, Dovalema Early Childhood Coop, and the village more broadly.
Together, we have already started formally but collectively gaining understandingof how the people are doing and how the land is doing. As villagers have already identified the 2-year outcomes for Dovalema Early Childhood Coop (under-5 survival and primary school readiness), they will soon identify outcomes for Ta-Valema Permaculture Farm & Learning Lab Social Enterprise Coops.
Because SLFND’s programs feed each other as an ecosystem…
…and because each program integrates all ofSLFND’s focus domains,
we measure the effects of each domain’s work in each program.
For Ta-Valema Social Enterprise Coops, this means: 1) Ecological management of SEC; 2) Well-being of each SEC member & family; 3) SECs’ Financial contribution to network; 4) SECs’ Nourishment of next generation of members; 5) SECs’ Collaborative innovation ethos.
Specific indicators and methods are yet to be determined by Social Enterprise Cooperative members, who will also conduct the inquiry process (data collection, analysis, interpretation) and facilitate critical reflection at each stage during weekly meetings.
Conventional measures of per capita or household income and wealth are inappropriate for measuring prosperity in Mondema. Additionally, Mondema and OECD countries understand privately held assets differently. Using specific wages or percentage increases would also not account for reduced costs for village families who will now have access to locally sourced and produced food and other items.
SEC members will explore various alternatives for quantitative measures of well-being pertaining to SEC members and villagers as a whole, in addition to qualitative measures.
How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)
SLFND’s user research reiterated to us the systemic nature of village poverty: Even when supplies and equipment are available for the bakery to feed Dovalema children and staff, for example, expanding distribution more broadly to satisfy increased demand necessitates transportation: To transport the bread, the bakery needs more members, appropriate containers, and appropriate vehicles. Because permaculture ethics require that we avoid thinking about benefiting some people at the expense of others—including future generations—or the earth (and vice versa), we thought deeply and critically about what that may look like. We remembered vendors traveling on bicycles and banana-leaf packaging.
During this phase, we also realized that we were not necessarily clear in our articulation of who is doing the instruction in our early childhood and vocational education programs, nor was the role of the social enterprise coops in relation to the farm and early childhood coop obvious.
What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)
Please see attached Gantt chart
Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)
One-third of our team is vocationally trained and professionally engaged in the trades for which we are building coops. These 8 villagers will act as instructors and the first rotation of leaders representing their respective SECs on the Coop Council. They have a deep familiarity not only with their craft but also with the sourcing, marketing, and sustainability issues related to it. Additionally, they retain deep connections with Mondema’s history, people, and land. Details are attached.
SLFND is organized as an ecosystem. Like a mother tree’s canopy, the village approves decisions and feeds Dovalema Early Childhood Coop and Ta-Valema Permaculture Farm & Learning Lab. Our 3 programs bear fruit. Our Country Office acts like an underlying fungal network that channels knowledge, funds, and supplies among programs. The Cooperative Council is like wildlife pruning and making a tree its own. Our Executive Director pollinates ideas while our Board is a snag that releases resources.
One-third of our team is vocationally trained and professionally engaged in the trades for which we are building coops. These 8 villagers will act as instructors and the first rotation of leaders representing their respective SECs on the Coop Council. They have a deep familiarity not only with their craft but also with the sourcing, marketing, and sustainability issues related to it. Additionally, they retain deep connections with Mondema’s history, people, and land.
Of our team's 23 members, 18 are of Sierra Leonean origin. 16 are permanent residents of Sierra Leone, and 11 reside in Mondema itself. Two-thirds of our team are formally educated through US or colonial systems—about half of them are in Sierra Leone and half are outside.
The third of the team listed here is based in Sierra Leone, generally outside of Mondema.
This third of the team is based outside of Sierra Leone. Of the 6 that spend more than half their lives outside Sierra Leone (in the USA and UK), 4 are of color and 2 are fluent in Mende.
This most recent video features Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy Founder & Executive Director as well as many board members and volunteers traveling from the USA. It also notes the need for medical care and equipment at the early childhood center.
What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)
Funds would support Social Enterprise Start-up Costs
* 4 in 2018 (bread bakery, carpentry/woodwork, community supported agriculture, rice milling)
* 4 in 2019 (metal/welding, arts & culture, grocer, textile/tailoring)
* Weekly SEC meetings during which members will reflect on the week, reviewing accounts, research/ evaluation data, and 1 topic for discussion
* Monthly Coop Council meetings during which representatives from each SEC make decisions about pressing issues and allocate resources
In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.
Because the Founder & Executive Director and many of the board members and volunteers come out of the nonprofit/ nongovernmental industry—their critique of which informed this alternative approach—the project is low on expertise from the for-profit sector. Furthermore, the Founder & Executive Director, board members, and volunteers share a critique of business practices that exploit or extract labor or nature. As such, we have many questions and challenges with respect to running the social enterprises sustainably.
1) How can we refine (or access resources/ assistance to refine) a no waste/ emissions paradigm that generates income locally and draws sustainably from local knowledge, skills, labor, and materials?
2) How can we identify or develop (or access resources/ assistance to identify and develop) social impact investing strategies (especially for one-time capital investments), including grants and other financing focused on social enterprise, circular economies, and environmental health?
3) How can we determine (or access resources/ assistance to determine) the viability and sustainability of various product lines in relation to each other and our other work? This would include market research/ analysis as well as market development and relationship building in addition to supply chain analysis (particularly considering the state of transportation, etc. throughout Africa), cross-cultural branding expertise, etc. We have started with the enterprises that fulfilled a function for Dovalema Early Childhood Center and/ or that already had workers, materials, and market ready. We would like to be intentional about the way we proceed—ensuring that enterprises that can make a profit soon are the ones we start with in an attempt to fund the others.
Final Updates (*Please do not complete until we reach the Improve Phase*): How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)
The expert feedback amplified our attempts to focus on low-input, low-energy enterprises primarily oriented to local needs, using the SDGs to help us tell our story.
The reviewer noted that aspiring to circular economy principles does not mean Ta-Valema aspires to be a subsistence economy disconnected from local, national, and international markets. Community members do currently use products created far away, depend on fossil fuels, and transport their wares to other towns and cities for sale. As light as our “footprint” is relative to the extractive industries that dominate Sierra Leone’s economy, we have not achieved zero waste/zero emissions, and some of the cooperative enterprises we proposed will create waste or emissions.
We decided to remove or postpone some social enterprise cooperatives until we engage local researchers in reviewing literature and practice internationally with respect to minimizing negative ecological impact.
During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.
Often when we think about communities coming together to heal from trauma of all forms, build their capacities, and generate community prosperity, the assumption is that the communities have little or no skills of their own. Usually, the idea is that the solutions to community problems must be managed by outsiders.
On the contrary, the day to day management of affairs in places like Mondema rests with the villagers themselves. The communities are the ones left with the problem, and they are also the ones with the solutions.
Africa and Sierra Leone specifically are now dominated by an influx of foreign-funded and -led NGOs that may have good intentions but are generally not trying to challenge this structure. In fact, what Arundhati Roy calls “the NGOization” of social change has contributed to the woeful failure of national governments to fulfil the most basic conditions for their people’s well-being—food, healthcare, and education among them.
Mondema villagers have set up Ta-Valema Permaculture Farm & Learning Lab Social Enterprise Cooperatives to address the extractive and exploitative nature of this dynamic.
Imagine a village community like Mondema receiving a relatively modest amount of funding with no conditions beyond fiduciary accountability attached. Imagine the village coming together to hear the good news, and to prepare for the work ahead. Now, imagine the problems have been mapped and action steps have been identified. Where do you think they will start and what would it look like?
By tradition in villages like Mondema, community members would first develop a consultative planning process. In the case of SLFND’s Ta-Valema Permaculture Farm & Learning Lab, we would convene the entire village as SLFND did when we contemplated establishing an early childhood center for the village. Having already approved the idea of social enterprise cooperatives, villagers would learn about the requirements involved and air any concerns or provisions.
Next, each Social Enterprise Cooperative would make decisions about production levels and quality, markets, and sourcing of raw materials for their work. The SECs will begin to see themselves as a power base-–doing good on their own terms and conditions. Representatives from each SEC would then form a Cooperative Council. Representatives would serve on a rotational basis. The SECs will begin to see themselves as teams learning from each other.
SEC members would meet for a half day every Saturday (Fridays are the off day in this majority-Muslim community). Facilitated by the rotating leaders, these meetings would allow SEC members to share successes, failures, and the results of experimentation or attempts at innovation that may have occurred the preceding week. Together, they would review financial and other accounts—including monitoring and evaluation data to answer their own questions about the larger effects of their work—and make plans for the future week. And they would raise any other challenges, feedback, or questions they may have for the following week’s meeting or for the Coop Council. These Saturday meetings where all cooperative members are present would be the main platform for SEC members to practice their ancestral tradition of deliberation.
Equally important, the meetings would also fill a gap for SEC members who have generally not completed primary let alone secondary school. Through critical pedagogy, SEC members will gain political awareness and understanding that many of us who have experienced poverty, war, and disease find healing.
Other villages throughout Sierra Leone (e.g., Bama) and in other parts of West Africa (e.g., Nigeria) have heard about our efforts already underway and asked us to work in partnership with them to develop the same deep democratic relationships among their people and between their people and their land. We are hopeful that as we continue to generate relationships and resources, we can document our journey—perhaps even in real time—to inspire and inform other communities to heal and grow themselves, whether by partnering with us or by engaging in efforts directed at their own people and land.
Mondema villagers gather to engage in a process of discovery and design, facilitated by SLFND and rooted in appreciative methods.
Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)
SLFND’s challenge is to shift rather than reproduce extractive and exploitative relationships. Our solutions include:
*Relying exclusively—thus far—on individual donations, mass mobilization, volunteers, and partnerships to ensure that villagers rather than outsiders deliberate on all decisions.
*Designing social enterprises not only to generate income for cooperative members but also to:
+Feed the bodies, minds, and spirits of children at Dovalema Early Childhood Coop;
+Generate income and supplies for Dovalema Early Childhood Coop and Ta-Valema Permaculture Farm;
+Provide the village with locally- and sustainably-sourced and -produced goods and services;
+Regenerate villagers’ connections with their history, each other, and the land.
Specifically, Ta-Valema Permaculture Farm & Learning Lab serves as a laboratory for all village children, adults, and elders to resurrect, learn, and cultivate new ways of sustaining themselves and the village as a whole through cooperatively-led social enterprises that manifest non-adversarial interaction with each other, with institutions, and with the environment. Integrating cooperatively-led social enterprises with early childhood programming should build reflective, collaborative leaders and catalyze a sustainable village economy. These will provide viable opportunities for villagers to stay in—and advocate on behalf of—the village rather than fleeing to over-crowded cities, only to experience unemployment and poverty.
We minimize our environmental impact by doing things like installing solar energy for water pumping and lighting, focusing on enterprises with low resource impact (bakery, etc.), and working to regenerate natural systems through permaculture farming, which reduces deforestation and carbon emissions. Through the beneficiary feedback process, we decided to reconsider some of our Social Enterprise Cooperatives. For example, we are postponing Livestock and delaying by just one year Textiles/ Tailoring.
Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)
Because the Social Enterprise Coops will produce goods locally and sustainably—beyond supporting Dovalema—about 500 individuals in the rural village of Mondema will benefit from Ta-Valema Permaculture Farm & Learning Lab: About 70 villagers representing a range of genders, religions, and ability statuses have started to benefit directly by serving as coop trainers, rotating leaders, and members of 8 SECs.
Farming is the source of 90% of rural Sierra Leoneans’ subsistence, but villagers experience high levels of food scarcity today. Deforestation from the war and from mining has decreased the soil quality. Extractive industries prey on rural land and residents. Residents of all ages work in toxic conditions on the mines. Youth flee to overcrowded cities in search of income, as few opportunities exist for income generation and education at any level. The chiefdom surrounding Mondema is among the most impoverished of the 16 in Kenema, and Mondema was significantly affected by Ebola.
How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)
Our Social Enterprise Coops not only generate learning, income, and products for individuals in while regenerating connections with their history, each other, and their land, but they are also designed to work together AND with Dovalema Early Childhood Coop to end individual and national dependence on development aid and philanthropy, neither of which advances local communities’ long-term interests. Food, healthcare, education, and livelihoods are basic, but in Sierra Leone—70% of whose budget comes from international aid—they are subject to conditions imposed by foreign governments whose economies prosper from the unsustainable exploitation and extraction of labor, timber, and minerals. SLFND starves that dynamic: It was originated and is led by a Sierra Leonean; local Sierra Leoneans are the only paid staff; villagers make all decisions deliberatively; and decision making and programming arise from African traditions of deliberative democracy, systems thinking, and critical praxis.
Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)
Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.
Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)
Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy dreams of connectedness among peoples and the earth, wounds healing, and creativity flowing. Its purpose is to work in partnership with communities to build the foundation for citizens of all ages to deliberate and enact new, non-adversarial alternatives that nurture democratic relationships and decision making among and across individuals, families, institutions, and the environment.
A collage of experiences by one of Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy's student visitors to Mondema village.
Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy challenges hierarchical and adversarial dynamics rooted in individualism, promoting instead Ubuntu: the Pan-African notion of interdependence and intersubjectivity.
Organization Filing Status
Yes, we are a registered non-profit.
In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.
Like many Sierra Leonean parents whose own educations were disrupted by the war or more recent ravages of Ebola and mudslides, SLFND’s founder was unaware that 2-year-olds can name their feelings, countries on a map, or photosynthesis until his own child did so. He realized sustainable democracy can manifest among adults in public institutions if it has been modeled within families and communities. Our Social Enterprise Coops provide opportunities to practice and model democratic relationships.
Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).
PEACE: Sierra Leone’s civil war was tied to the exploitative and extractive diamond industry.
PLANET: The recent Ebola epidemic and mudslide are both linked to deforestation from the war and extraction of minerals used in cell phones and other products.
PROSPERITY: Decreased access to clean air, water, and fertile land arise from deforestation and mining. Villagers must supplement farming to foster their families’ well-being.
While villagers have always produced and traded goods, generating income is difficult when the market is flooded with items imported or donated from abroad—often made of pollutants that add to the problem. Villagers lack the capital, tools, and marketing to compete. Education imposed by colonial and capitalist interests has disconnected them from traditions of sustainably using natural materials and disrupted the interdependence required for trading to thrive.
Our Social Enterprise Coops—rooted in reciprocity and regeneration—address all 3 topic areas.
Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)
SLFND’s purpose is to work in partnership. Partnership with villages as well as educators, health professionals, and permaculturists internationally allowed Dovalema Coop and surrounding Ta-Valema Permaculture Farm to be built without philanthropic or government funding. SLFND is also growing partnerships with others addressing soil resilience, food sovereignty, and access to clean water, air, and sanitation facilities. For example, Dovalema purchased a smoke-free stove and received a second from WestWind Energy—Sierra Leone-owned, -manufactured, and -developed. Similarly, locally-operated Biofil Technology and Minerals installed Dovalema’s sanitation facilities. Minneapolis College of Art & Design has committed to a 5-year arrangement in which students will assist our SECs in marketing their products and telling their story more broadly. Through the BridgeBuilder Challenge, OASIIS initiated a conversation about the possibility of our work being featured on their digital platform.
Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)
At initial convenings, villagers responded to the idea of starting with 50 children in an existing building, participants by drawing from ancestral collectivist values: A woman said that doing so would require excluding some families. “How do we choose? We will all have access or none will, and we will all learn together.”
150 villagers built Dovalema Early Childhood Coop and surrounding Ta-Valema Permaculture Farm. They enrolled nearly all 250 children aged 2-5, showing their commitment.
Mondema village, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone, W. Africa.
Survivors of extraction/ exploitation.
How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)
Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)