Site will be unavailable for maintenance from June. 4, 11:30 p.m., to June 5, 12:30 a.m. ET. Thank you for your patience!  

A harvest to end child hunger

Home > Learn More > Stories & News > A harvest to end child hunger

Posted on 11/11/2021
Boy holds up harvested sweet potatoes in Sierra Leone, smiling.

 

On an overcast day in rural Bombali District, Sierra Leone, 12-year-old Momoh presses his hands into the soft earth until he feels it: the round, firm shape of the food that will mean sustenance for his family for the entire year to come. He grins. Tugging at the stem until the vegetable comes free, roots and all, he shakes off the dirt to reveal several brilliant, blood-red bulbs. 

“I love sweet potato because it is sweet!’’ Momoh exclaims, placing the vegetables in a large basket along with their stems and leaves. “Potato keeps you full for long. When I eat potato, it takes time before I get hungry again.”
 
 Momoh’s mother, Isatu, carries the baby on her back as she, Momoh and his other siblings wash the potatoes in the nearby river, separating the stems and leaves, which are also nutritious. They can’t help but smile, laugh and joke as they work. So much depends on a good harvest. For them, a strong crop is quite literally the difference between a season of hunger and stress or one of joy and thanksgiving – and this year, they have been lucky.

The struggle against hunger in Sierra Leone

Family washes sweet potatoes in a river in Sierra Leone.

In most rural areas of Sierra Leone – as in many of the communities where ChildFund works – families’ quality of life depends heavily on the quality of the harvest from their crops. More than 60 percent of Sierra Leone’s population lives in rural communities, and the majority of them are subsistence farmers.

Here, rice is the staple food, but it can only be harvested in the dry season from December to April. In the rainy season from May to November, a bag of imported rice costs around $35 USD – difficult even for more affluent families in the capital city to afford. In rural communities, families like Momoh’s must get creative to survive. Hundreds of thousands of Sierra Leoneans are severely food insecure, and child hunger is common.

Crops like cassava, sweet potato and yam come in handy during these months. The orange-fleshed sweet potatoes Momoh’s family has harvested are in especially high demand for their incredible flavor and high levels of nutrients. Rich in vitamin A, they are a powerful preventive for malnutrition.

“There is a lot you can do with sweet potatoes,” Momoh tells us with excitement. “Sweet potatoes can be fried, roasted or boiled. But I like them boiled. Sometimes, after harvest, I pick out some potatoes, wash them, get some firewood, set the fire, put some water in the pot, put the potatoes in the pot and boil to my satisfaction. When it is cooked, we eat as a family.”

Boy cooks sweet potatoes over an open fire in Sierra Leone.

Overcoming hunger during COVID-19


Now that the sweet potatoes are harvested, Momoh’s family must sell a huge chunk of their crop in order to buy a bag of rice. Forty-five pounds of sweet potato will earn them about $2.93 USD.

“If our crops are not of high quality, people will not buy, and we will not have enough at home,” Isatu says. “If the harvest is not of high quality, there is suffering at home, since there is nothing else we can do to survive as a family where both parents are farmers.” Hunger becomes an unfortunate fact of life, including for the children. Momoh remembers many seasons like this, long days and nights when no one knew where the next meal was coming from. The beginning of the pandemic was especially frightening.

But things are looking up again. In 2020, Momoh’s family received cash assistance as part of ChildFund’s COVID-19 emergency response to help end child hunger. “When we received the money, we bought some food stuff for the home,” Isatu says. “We did not want to eat everything and end up suffering again, so we also bought some groundnut seeds, cassava and potato tubers for planting this season.’’ The family is now eagerly awaiting a harvest from these crops so they can have extra money to pay for their children’s school expenses. Momoh himself is in the sixth grade, nervous and excited to pass his exams for junior secondary school. 

“After school each day, and during weekends, I help in brushing the farm, making garden heaps, sowing and helping when they are due for harvest,” he says. He’s willing to do everything he can to end child hunger in his family and ensure that money is not a barrier to their education.

“If it all goes well, my parents will buy me school uniforms, bags, books and pens, and I will have enough food to go to school.”
 

This holiday season, give to a child hunger organization


Are you serving up Momoh’s favorite food during the holidays this year? Don’t forget his family’s gratitude for the simple things.

As the season fills our tables with a variety of bountiful foods, many people are looking for ways to give back to those in need as well as give thanks. If this story inspired you, consider becoming a monthly giver for an organization that’s working to end child hunger. Or sponsor a child in Sierra Leone – or anywhere in the world – and help make sure that their harvest is full of hope this year. 

Family smiles holding their sweet potato harvest in Sierra Leone.


read more