Rice is the staple food in Sierra Leone, with an average consumption of 104 kg per person, per year. Before the civil war, the country was a major world exporter of rice. Nowadays, as the number of commercial producers has dropped severely, Sierra Leone depends on ever rising levels of imported rice. To bend the curb, Cordaid supports the West African Rice Company.
The West African Rice Company (WARC) was founded in 2011 with the mission to increase food security, production, and nutritional diversity. And to create more value at farmer level. They established the farm in Tormabum, Bonthe District, in the southern province of Sierra Leone. By the end of 2012, WARC started distributing rice across the country under the brand ‘Leone Rice’.
For the harvester operator roles we only hire women. It is a well-paid job that anybody would like to have and there is no reason why a woman cannot do it.
Emiliano Mroue, CEO of WARC
In 2014, due to the Ebola crisis, WARC suspended operations. Luckily, the following year, they were able to resume rice production. After having successful average production yields, WARC decided to expand its operations.
Willing to take a risk
In 2016, Cordad Investments decided to support the expansion plan. We provided finance for equipment and working capital. “Cordaid Investments took a significant risk the first time they invested in us,” says Emiliano Mroue, CEO of WARC. “They took a risk that other international lenders were not willing to take. This investment catalysed additional funding that we used for infrastructure and equipment,” he continues.
WARC collaborates with other organizations to introduce no-till technologies. This agricultural practice minimizes the need for fertilizer and irrigation.
In 2017, Cordaid Investments approved a second loan to support maize production. “We will create more jobs and enhance skills, especially of those small producers that were in subsistence farming. As from the second half of this year, the maize production will catalyse the poultry sector and there will be an important nutritional impact because the protein offer will increase”, says Mroue.
Women as harvester operators
WARC employs around 120 permanent workers (45% women, 57% youth) and hires 150 additional workers during peak activities. “Aside from the target on number of female employees, we send messages about the important role of women as farmers, employees, and members of our team. For example, for the harvester operator roles we only hire women. It is a well-paid job that anybody would like to have and there is no reason why a woman cannot do it”, underlines Emiliano Mroue.
Creating more value at farmer level
To accomplish the mission of creating more value at farmer level, WARC has delivered various projects. In 2013, they rolled out an outgrowers’ program, providing farmers with tools, inputs and knowhow. They also supported the construction of local markets and currently assist farmers with market linkages. They collaborate with other organizations to implement farmers training, to undertake research for high yield varieties and to introduce no-till technologies. This agricultural practice minimizes the need for fertilizer and irrigation.
(featured image: Woman operating a harvester machine in Sierra Leone (© WARC))