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Enhancing Adaptive Capacity of Coastal Communities Through Sustainable Livelihoods

Improved livelihoods for coastal user groups in Sierra Leone through sustainable agricultural practices and entrepreneurship.

Photo of Dugba B
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Jalimi Farms

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Bonthe Municipal Council (Goverment) Bonthe Oysters Sherbro Women's Association (Women's Group) Amuloma Farmers Association (Farmers Group) Bonthe Family (Youth Group)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Under 1 year

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Bonthe Town

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Sierra Leone

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Bonthe-Sherbro River Estuary, located in southern Sierra Leone, receives discharges from three rivers and an estimated size of 283.54 km²

What country is your selected Place located in?

Sierra Leone

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Healthy coastal ecosystems are critical for food security, yet they have been neglected in the development and policy landscape in the country. Sherbro River estuary is home to some of the poorest groups in the country even though there is an abundance of resources. This may be as a result of the geographical positioning of coastal communities. Over exploitation of resources unsustainable practices and climate change further exacerbate the problems. Coastal communities provide more that 50% of all protein diet consumed in Sierra Leonean homes as fisheries products are cheaper than meat-based products. It is therefore very important that the subsistence and commercial activities are undertaken at sustainable rates to conserve coastal areas as they are key food production systems. This region was selected to help conserve its beauty and resources.

I am from a family of fisher folk and smallholder farmers. My mother is from one of the communities along the Sherbro River estuary and in my childhood she shared may stories about the area. One of the stories that struck me most during these fireside story times was about a town called Tombe that was completely inundate and his she associated with the destruction of mangroves around the community.

I have been working in this region for most part of my career and I have come to witness firsthand the challenges faced by people in this area and how they attempt to solve complex and evolving problems of their own. I believe with all relevant stakeholders on board, we can improve the livelihoods of coastal user groups for a sustainable food production system. This solution sits with my passion and to bring about development to rural communities and empowering women and youths. Through this we hope to inspire youth to engage in activities that will provide employment for themselves and others rather than waiting for government or aid organizations to help them. 

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The Sherbro River Estuary is a coastal community, designated as a Marine Protected Area.  Local communities have lived in the region for generations, far preceding the recent MPA designation. This is one of the oldest parts of the country. It is said say they are the true Sierra Leoneans or original settlers i.e.  people whose roots cannot be traced to any other country are settled in this area. It was originally home to Bullom and Shebro ethnic groups but now the area is dominated by Mende ethnic groups and Bullom language is becoming extinct. Bonthe town, which is the biggest community in the estuary is historically significant because it is the home of Shengbe Pieh one of the heroes from the Amistad Revolt. It was one of the main centers for the slave trade and later became an anti-slavery post and home for freed slaves. Relics of slave trade and British occupancy are seen all over the island. Initially a thriving economy which was the head quarter of the British Colony in Sierra Leone, the area is one of the poorest areas in the country according to the National Development report 2019. The biologically diverse and fishery-rich coastal landscape is suffering severe erosion over the last decades, leading to the total reclamation and relocation of some communities living by the sea,


Livelihoods in this area are characterized by agriculture and fisheries. People eat fish, rice, oysters and other shell fish, and cassava meals. The main agricultural crops grown are rice, cassava and groundnut. Oyster and other shellfish are harvested from the wild and have never been farmed even though there is a decrease in shellfish populations. Rice is grown mainly for subsistence and cassava is processed to other products such as garri (cassava flakes) which has high demand nationally as well as internationally is grown for commercial purposes. Oysters are mainly harvested by poorer groups, mostly women who do not have strong boats to go out for fishing. There has been an increase in demand and many men are now entering the oyster and shellfish trade. Groundnut is planted on a small scale for internal sales. 


People in this area feel neglected as most of the development opportunities only stop on the main land. Island communities get little of no support from the government and other development partners. The National Nutrition Survey 2017 shows children in the region suffer from acute malnutrition, this is mainly because of lack of balanced diets during certain months. The rainy seasons are known as hungry months because tide conditions do not allow community members to go out to fish and there is often no rice or cassava to eat during this time. 

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Farming and fishing communities along the Sherbro River Estuary are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Recent studies have elucidated that these communities are vulnerable because of combined factors that increases their sensitivity and increases their adaptive and hence vulnerability to the effects of climate change. Food production system are challenged by

*Unsustainable practices and climate change

*Lack of access to inputs, farm equipment, transportation, value-adding opportunities and functional markets

*Absence of appropriate policies to reduce poverty and improve food security within fisheries communities

Global temperature and weather changes are adding to the natural dynamism of the coastal zones are accelerating due to climate change. Reported impacts of climate change include erosion, flooding, saltwater intrusion, reduction in health, diversity and productivity of coastal and inshore marine ecosystems and species, species and habitats, loss of spawning sites etc.  Increase in rice production in the Sherbro River Estuary region pose a significant threat to the mangroves in this region. Despite this increase in production, the area is still insecure as the rice grown is sold for families to have money for other items such as purified water for drinking, battery and solar powered lanterns for electricity etc.

Changes to the environment have significant implications for economic activities as fish smoking and rice farming are the main economic activities in the region. The rate of mangrove felling is high in the Sherbro River Estuary and income from wood sales provides supports individuals with limited livelihood options or land. This further increases the vulnerability of local communities and coastal ecosystems to climate change. There are no credit schemes in Sierra Leone that support coastal communities. As seen in many developing countries, coastal communities are some of the poorest groups in the rural settings and as such they have hardly any surplus income for savings. Though they area has been designated as an MPA, because of conflicting mandates between various governmental bodies taxed to manage the MPA. The process of decentralization in Sierra Lone is not strong enough to encourage the inclusion of fisheries communities in local development efforts. Fisherfolk are considered as occupy one of the lowest social status in their communities and are hence not involved in development planning and in decision making. 

Youths are moving away from from the area because of the of the lack of opportunities. Slowly the heritage of the SRE is becoming lost. The Bullom ethic group and language that was spoken in the region is now extinct. Sherbro is also phasing out. Community members are aware of the changes around them but the lack skill and basic information on how to tackle these challenges. Unsustainable practices have been going on for long therefore moving this to something new poses a cultural challenge. Lack of alternative technologies worsens the problem. 

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our solution addresses issues associated with our food system holistically as part of a complex system. To ensure sustainability, our approach develops all capital assets. All program interventions will be focused around farmers and fisher folk to ensure that selected groups become model in the community who in turn can train others. Our three-part solution will take into consideration 


Agriculture innovation platforms such as farmer field schools, improved seed and livestock, techniques such as seed selection, agro-processing machinery, value addition and others. will be used as an effective way to address the magnitude, immediacy, and broad scope of problems associated with rice cultivation on mangrove ecosystems, cassava and vegetable production. Introduction of activities such as mangrove restoration, oyster and other seafood culture, composting, embankment construction using local materials will ensure the environment is protected. 


Communities will be introduced to beekeeping, snail farming, backyard gardening, ornament and arts as supplementary livelihoods to expose the costal poor to other agricultural opportunities beyond their family farm. The initiative will also try to help community members be actively engaged in ecotourism activities. The area has a lot of opportunities but because of the distance and lack of community interest and know how in these activities. By collaborating with tourism firms, the program will arrange excursions so local and foreign will be brought to see and experience the beauty of the area and experience life as it is for coastal groups. 


Formation of farmers and fishers groups will enable livelihoods groups to leverage government and other organization facilities and give them stronger bargaining power, increase access to markets and finance. Introducing savings and enterprise development training will strengthen and promote community owned and individual businesses. Collective action will also lead to social cohesion in the communities. Groups will be autonomous and small users’ fees paid for using agro-processing equipment, storage facilities and others will be saved in a group trust fund which can be used for further development. 

Capacity building opportunities in the form of skills, gender and advocacy, business, organizational training and adult literacy will be given to local groups. Technical support will be provided to the national authorities, particularly the Bonthe District Council to develop strong partnerships with all stakeholders at national level (fisher-folk, Ministries, NGOs, private sector, and development partners and bilateral cooperation) and sub-regional and regional level to reinforce their capacities, the sector make more visible and facilitate the eligibility of the sector for funds mobilized for poverty reduction in Sierra Leone.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

The proposed vision is expected to increase food production and income levels in coastal communities. The capacity building component in all our proposed activities will ensure sustainability so that communities continue to carry on with activities and processes on their own. With an increase in yield, diversified livelihoods, social capital, increased market access, the lives of people in Bonthe will be improved and poverty eliminated among the people. 

Access to improved technology i.e. improved plant and animal breeds, agro-processing machinery, oyster culture, storage spaces, mangrove restoration, preservation technology etc will increase the productivity, prevent environmental degradation. Access to improved fish smoking systems will reduce the demand for mangrove wood products. Reduction in mangrove degradation will have positive implications for the ecosystem. There will be an increase in fish stock, there will be less erosion, mangrove trees will be there to protect communities from floods, storms and other climatic problem. Children will be better nourished with the introduction of bio-fortified crops. 

There will be unity among communities. Savings groups will be more coordinated, this will attract banks and other development partners to SRE communities.

Advocacy and gender training will mean men and women work together to have more control over their personal, household, community and organizational development. 

Ecotourism, oyster culture, crafts making will create opportunities for youth and help preserve the culture of SRE and reduce the pressure on natural resources. With advocacy, communities will be able to push for their inclusion in nation policies. 

Value added products will be sold to markets in and out of the country. Groups will be linked with food processors, restaurants and other value chain actors to ensure they have markets for their products. The community will be a model for other coastal communities in the region. 

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

The vision is a collaborative effort of local community groups (including women’s and youth group), government institution (District Council) and a privet sector entity (Jalimi Farms). Our vision provides agricultural extension services and asset-based financing to coastal communities. These areas are quite remote and far to reach and there for many businesses tend to avoid the area although the coastal region provides 12% of the country’s GDP. Our approach is designed to operationalize sustainable agricultural development taking into consideration explicit severity to the effects of climate change and adaptation needs. We employ an integrated approach to the implementation of agricultural development activities to improve and diversify local livelihood support options and hence build resilience to climate change. Our approach takes into consideration the development of natural capital, physical capital, financial capital, social capital and human capital for the Sherbro River Estuary people, bringing about sustainable development. 

Environment: The vision hopes to improve environmental conditions by engaging in climate smart agriculture. Mangrove rice integration will ensure, that mangrove trees are not completely removed to make way for ice farms. Oyster culture, composting and other techniques will help to reduce the pressure on the natural resources whilst ensuring increase in productivity. 


Diets: Rice and cassava are the only crops planted in the area through research it has been discovered that the right techniques can help other crops grow well. Increase in production of bio-fortified crops and will help make the are food secure. 


Economics: Increase in farming and fishing productivity will boost incomes in SRE. Availability of alternative livelihoods will mean that community members no longer have to rely on seasonal livelihoods such as fishing and farming.  Capacity building opportunities will help youth gain employment. 


Culture: the `way of life of SRE people is being lost. Youth are sent to communities with schools and other amenties in hope of a better life for them, languages have become extinct the traditions of a people lost. Once vibrant town now economically weakened, beautiful sceneries beheld only by few. Our initiative hopes to ensure the preservation of the culture in Sherbro land by engaging in ecotourism. Boat racing events run in collaboration with Ministry of Tourism through the District Council, will attract several tourists.


Technology: Improved fish smoking system, design- for-affordability tools such improved hand pumps will help to increase productivity and bring about 


Policy. The fisheries sector can play a vital role if it is integrated into the various national policies and strategies. Communities will be empowered to advocated for their inclusion into natonal development plans and policies. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Facebook

Attachments (1)


Join the conversation:

Photo of Itika Gupta

Hi Dugba B  Great to see you joining the Prize!

We noticed your submission is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have your submission included in the Prize. Even if you've not started populating your Vision just yet, by publishing your submission you can make it public for other teams in your region to see, get in touch and possibly even collaborate with you.

You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your Vision at any time before 31 January 2020 by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top. If you need inspiration or guidance, take a look at the Food Vision Prize Toolkit.
Here is the link to the Prize Toolkit:

Look forward to seeing your Vision evolve through the coming weeks.

Photo of Dugba B

I am working on it but some of my team members are local community groups and they do not have email addresses.