Although Sierra Leone has abundant natural resources, the decade-long civil war severely devastated the country’s economy, destroyed infrastructure and caused large-scale human suffering. The global recession has hampered recent progress, which has decreased incoming capital. The country ranks 177 out of 187 countries on the 2013 UNDP Human Development Index.
WFP and other UN agencies support the Government of Sierra Leone in the implementation of its 'Agenda for Prosperity' (2013-2018), which prioritizes agricultural and infrastructure development and works to improve social services through the UN Joint Transition Programme and the fifth component of the Smallholder Commercialization Programme (Social Protection, Food Security and Productive Social Safety Nets).
The situation in Sierra Leone has significantly improved since 2002, due to increased security and peace-building efforts. In 2013, Sierra Leone was ranked the 59th most peaceful country out of 162 in the world by the Global Peace Index (GPI). The return of displaced rural populations to their homes has helped agricultural recovery across most of the country.
The agricultural sector contributes over 40 percent of Sierra Leone’s GDP. In the President’s Agenda for Prosperity (2013-2018), the Government of Sierra Leone declared agricultural development and food security the foundations for the country’s economic growth and poverty reduction.
Sierra Leone faces significant challenges related to food security and nutrition. Average lifespan is roughly half that of western nations, and malnutrition rates are among the world’s highest, with acute malnutrition at or above emergency levels of 15 percent among children under five years old. Poverty remains pervasive, particularly in the Eastern and Northern regions, where more than six out of ten people live on less than one euro a day. According to a 2011 comprehensive food security and vulnerability analysis (CFSVA), 45 percent of households (2.5 million people) are classified as food-insecure during the lean season.
Unemployment (especially among youth), low labor productivity, lack of irrigation, over-harvesting and inadequate access to food markets as a result of poor infrastructure continue to threaten food security.