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The first rice ripens in our first paddy, planted with Azolla from Njala, turning golden, pregnant with a “full belly” as our farmers say and ready soon to harvest, the only rice being harvested this rainy season in Sanda Magbolontor.

Cut off from supplies for a month every year when the river swells and the ferry locks, the Chiefdom goes hungry every rainy season, Sanda Magbolontor’s subsistence farmers unable to afford labour or fertilizer to grow enough rice to feed themselves and oft reduced to eating the following seasons' seed.

We hope our Hope Sakuma farmer field school is going to change that for good and Azolla is set to make all the difference. Our farmer field school, delivered by our team including a BRACS-trained engineer and JICA-trained IVS specialist, will show subsistence farmers from 14 villages how to work together to construct bunds and farm paddy rice intensively but sustainably, using Azolla, to replace chemical fertilizers to maintain soil health, while reducing farmers fertilizer costs and weeding time.

Cagauan, A.G. & Branckaert, R.D. & Hove, C.. (2000). Integrating fish and Azolla into rice-duck farming in Asia

And the IVS rice-azolla-duck-vegetable system our farmers will learn will significantly boost yield, nutrition and livelihoods in the chiefdom, as well as dramatically reducing our rice paddys’ co2 emissions!

But we think Azolla can do even more than help improve food supply in Sanda Magbolontor.

And with the help of the Azolla Foundation, the more we research Azolla, the more we see the ways Azolla really could help transform not only this chiefdoms’ food security but the peoples’ health and its economy and help stop rampant deforestation - proven projects from IVS landscapes around the world, from Bolivia, India, and the Philippines to Tanzania and Guniee-Bisau, each demonstrating aspects of Azolla’s myriad benefits and applications working in practice.

We know, for example, that Azolla could transform Sanda Magbolontor villagers’ health and life-expectancy with its ability to reduce mosquito populations by 95% preventing malaria, Zika and Dengue Fever, while Azolla’s capacity to purify water could also reduce other life-threatening water borne diseases, like diarrhoea and cholera and enable low-cost eco-sanitation systems to be installed.

But it’s Azolla’s other uses - from making bio-fertilizer, nutritious animal feed to producing clean energy without displacing crops or trees - that most excite villagers and farmers and suggests Azolla’s real potential is to support new sustainable livelihoods and micro-businesses for women and youth. Azolla can even make bricks to literally build sustainble communities! And by improving livelihoods, sensitizing our farmers and giving a value to trees beyond their current 10,000 leone market price (approximately £1) we think we can stamp out deforestation in the Chiefdom.

So, we believe Azolla is the key we need to help Sanda Magbolontor transition to become Sierra Leone’s first sustainable Chiefdom, a scalable model for other IVS landscapes, demonstrating Azolla’s versatility and multiple benefits – with around 100 hectares of suitable IVS identified in the south of the chiefdom, Hope Sakuma villages alone could store more than 3,000 tons of planet-warming CO2 and Sierra Leone, with 6,900 hectares of IVS - 50% in the Northern Province - could store even more!

It’s a bold ambition only achievable if the new system truly benefits the 23 village communities we work with but a summer of discussions with key stakeholders, including our farmers, headmen, Councillor and the Regent Chief has won their support and given us the encouragement to go forward.

And lifting some of the poorest farmers in the world out of poverty and fighting climate change in the third most vulnerable country to its devastaing impacts, is surely a prize worth pursuing and a shot worth taking?


Please and share our sustainable farming journey empowering rural women to improve nutrition, food security and climate change adaptation in Sierra Leone.

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