Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

The importance of Sierra Leone farming and weather

African farmers and climate is very important to Sierra Leone for farming and weather impact because subsistence agriculture is the dominant sector in the Sierra Leone economy.

Sierra Leone farmer.

With a population of nearly 6.5 million people the weather of Sierra Leone from December to February is dry but rainfall along the coast is around 200 inches a year, making it one of the wettest places in Africa.

Traditional shifting cultivation is by far the predominant system of farming in the African country of Sierra Leone. Most farmers produce a wide range of crops under rainfed conditions including rice, the main crop, cassava, sweet potato, maize, sorghum, yams, groundnut, benniseed (sesame) millet, okra, garden eggs (small eggplants), pepper and a multitude of leafy vegetables.
The sesame plant prefers humid areas, so it is mostly grown in the wetter northern provinces, intercropped with rice.

The small white seeds, the only edible part of the plant, are traditionally prepared in two ways: toasted and ground into a powder, which is mixed with rice flour and water to obtain benni mix, a nutritious children’s food; or boiled for a long time and left to ferment in closed jute sacks to obtain a powder which is wrapped in banana leaves and smoked.

The resulting product, ogirie, is one of the most common seasonings in Sierra Leone, used to flavor soups and other dishes. It must be used with caution, as the pungent smell can become offensive if used in large quantities. It should also be cooked for at least 10-15 minutes to minimize its strong odor.

Agriculture is the dominant sector in the Sierra Leone economy accounting for nearly 48 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employing 65 percent of the population. It accounts for nearly 10 percent of recorded export earnings. Sierra Leone is extremely poor and nearly half of the working-age population engages in subsistence agriculture. The country possesses substantial mineral, agricultural, and fishery resources, but it is still recovering from a civil war that destroyed most institutions before ending in the early 2000s.

Sierra Leone has a hot tropical climate with two pronounced seasons: a rainy season from May to November, and a dry season from December to April. The rainy season has weather patterns occurring in the following order: thunderstorms and squalls for some months, steady rains then thunderstorms and squalls again.

The thunderstorms and squalls occur at the beginning and end of the rainy season with high intensity and frequency in May-June and October-November. Steady rains occur in the middle of the rainy season from July to September. Rainfall is frequent and often heavy and about 80 to 85 percent of the annual rainfall occurs during this period.

Only about 5 percent of the land area is now covered by closed forest. Like many parts of Africa Sierra Leone, high forests are now found on steep and often inaccessible ranges of hills such as the Kambui, Nimini, Dodo, Kangari and Tama-Tonkoli hills. Other places with existing high forests include Forest reserves, chiefdom protected forests and village sacred bushes. Their principal uses for logging timber and for farming have contributed to the drastic reduction in the area under high forest in Sierra Leone. Two types of high forest exist: the tropical rain forest and the moist semi-deciduous forest.

One of the most serious negative impacts of deforestation on the natural vegetation is the loss of species, some of which may be unknown to science in terms of economic potential and usefulness to humankind. Genetic erosion of wild indigenous plant species through deforestation deprives any country of the sustainable management of its natural biological resources. These resources form the basis for sectoral development of human activities in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, medicines for maintaining good health, and in environmental management.

Peanuts grown in Sierra Leone.

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