What does it mean to be hungry in Sierra Leone in 2021? What are the main drivers of hunger? How are people surviving and getting through the hungry season?
We know that July and August are particularly difficult months for Sierra Leoneans in terms of hunger – with over one million people entering a ‘crisis’ situation with regard to their food security.
For the rural communities living in the provinces, food stocks are running low before the harvest begins in September. For those living in the cities and urban areas, the heavy rains mean that the informal economy of odd jobs, manual labour and selling slows down considerably, with many unable to make any money to pay for food.
Although Covid restrictions on movement have now been lifted, the shock of the pandemic has placed Sierra Leone in a position where it faces an even more devastating ‘lean period’ than previous years.
We have been commissioned by the New Internationalist UK (funded by the European Journalism Centre), to produce a film (or set of films) looking at the subject of food insecurity in Sierra Leone, moving beyond the figures and donor reports to understand what food insecurity actually looks like to those who are experiencing it.
Sierra Leone has the highest national prevalence rate of acutely food-insecure people in the Sahel and West Africa region and has been ranked 5th in the region in terms of people needing support. Despite this, it often falls off lists of the most severe food insecurity hotspots because of its small population.
We are commissioning the Sierra Leone reporter network – who previously worked on Beyond the Bite and now have in-country mobile journalism kits – to follow different community members in various locations over the course of 4-6 weeks, immersing themselves in their lives and following the ups and downs of what it means to experience the sharp end of food insecurity.
The longer time frame will enable us to move beyond snapshots and get to know these individuals/families on a deeper level – almost like a diary format. They will be there for the important events unfolding in their lives, for their good days and their bad days, moments of resilience and times of hardship.
Hunger is a very difficult subject matter and bearing witness to people struggling can be a difficult thing to do. However, as citizen journalists who know these communities well, and are aware of the local context and sensitivities, there will be a greater level of trust and understanding here. During the filming, both the community reporters and individuals being filmed will be signposted on where to go if they are worried or need support.
With this project, we are aiming to reach a global audience and show the realities of what life is like for Sierra Leoneans in one of the most food-insecure countries in the world, told by those who are experiencing it.
These will be stories told by, produced by, and filmed by Sierra Leoneans themselves. They will show a global audience what modern-day hunger actually looks like, getting to know their stories – the daily hustle, resilience and humour; the anger and frustration, the faith and dreams; the pooling of resources to help neighbours put food on the tables and the celebration of life events. The stories gathered will be weaved together to form a collective story.
New Internationalist UK