Sierra Leone has faced many challenges in recent history. Internal conflict followed by the Ebola crisis caused the cocoa market to collapse, leaving many cocoa farmers with difficult access to the world market. Now that the country has been declared Ebola free, Sao and her family are turning their luck around.
Sao Briama became a cocoa farmer the moment she married her husband 40 years ago, in the village of Komende, situated close to Kenema. He owned a large cocoa farm and Sao decided to move from the big city to the countryside. After her husband died, Sao remained in Komende where she currently shares a house with her two sisters. Sao has three sons and two daughters.
“Cocoa is very important to me and my family, I don’t grow any other crop, apart from some fruit trees. Over the last couple of years the price that we recieve for our organic cocoa has risen, so I have been able to improve my house and send one of my daughters to university. Next year she will graduate.”
According to Sao, all the new houses in the village were paid for by cocoa money. The increased income has had a clear effect on the community, with the increased wealth allowing both people and property to develop.
Times were not so easy, however, in the midst of the recent Ebola crisis. The disease hit Sao’s village hard, with 33 people infected and only 11 of who survived. A befriended couple who took care of part of Sao’s farm both got infected very quickly and died soon after.
“It has been a very difficult time for everybody here. As well as fearing the disease, we have hardly had any income as it was so difficult to sell our cocoa.”
With Sierra Leone finally declared Ebola free, the cocoa trade has rejuvenated and people can start thinking about the future. Sao’s younger brother, Hansana Briama, is currently taking care of his sister’s farm and it continues to be a steady source of income for the family. Sao smiles when I ask her about her future prospects.
“As long as we can sell our cocoa and we get good prices, I think the future will be fruitful and we will be able to improve our lives and send our children to school.”
Tradin Organic Agriculture B.V.
Stationsplein 61 - 65
1012AB Amsterdam, NL