Sierra Leone: beekeepers on crutches

November 8, 2023

The long recovery from the civil war

Sierra Leone’s recovery from the civil war is an international success story. Once a country at the top of the UN Security Council’s concern, Sierra Leone is soon to be an acting member of the council, having been elected in earlier this year.

However, the civil war cast a long shadow and the country still faces the huge challenges that come with sitting near the bottom of the global league tables for multi-dimensional poverty.  

Amputation in the civil war

The civil war in Sierra Leone lasted for over 10 years between 1991 and 2002 and left an estimated 27,000 people with an amputation or disability. Mutilation through limb amputation was a common tactic used by the rebel forces to control communities through fear. Many of the survivors living with amputations were children during the civil war.

In Sierra Leone, as in many countries around the world, having a disability brings with it stigmatisation and marginalisation, as well as physical challenges. Amputees in Sierra Leone face additional social exclusion because they are a stark reminder of the violence of the civil war.

Footballers on crutches

Those of you who follow our work closely may recall us speaking about the Sierra Leonian beekeepers on crutches, but the origin story has its roots in football. The story goes that a pastor named Mambud Samhai who teaches permaculture saw a group of people playing football on the beach, on closer inspection he was surprised to see many of the players were amputees using crutches, which didn’t seem to affect their ability on the pitch. If having an amputation doesn’t stop you playing football, why should it stop you being a successful farmer? Mambud decided to offer a permaculture farming course to people living with amputations.

Having an amputation or a disability in Sierra Leone is a catch-22, they are discriminated against making it difficult to get a job then are stigmatised for not contributing to society. Having a way to earn a livelihood not only improves amputees’ quality of life but their standing in society.

Beekeepers on crutches

Beekeeping is a fantastic complementary activity to farming, it doesn’t take up much land, it’s not as time intensive as other types of farming and it offers a different source of revenue through products that are high value such as honey and wax-based products. Bees Abroad was asked to provide support to the permaculture course to add beekeeping to the curriculum.

This November, Bees Abroad will be running a workshop in Sierra Leone with 12 participants from the permaculture course. The aim of the workshop is to develop a training course accessible to beekeepers living with amputations. If successful, the course will be made available in the three permaculture course farms that serve three major towns and cities across Sierra Leone.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog where we go into more detail on challenges, possible solutions and aims of accessible beekeeping in Sierra Leone.

This Beekeeper Can

If you want to support beekeeping groups like the beekeepers on crutches, we have a great opportunity…

From the 28thNovember – 5th December all donations will be doubled – one donation, double the impact.

We can’t do what we do without your support, so thank you!  

This story is part of a series of stories we will be sharing over the next month as we celebrate the campaign ‘This Beekeeper Can’. Stay tuned to hear more stories, join our events or enter our prize draw.