Although Sierra Leone has great natural resources, the decade-long civil war severely devastated the country’s economy, destroyed infrastructure and caused large-scale human suffering. In 2011, Sierra Leone ranked 71 out of 81 countries in the Global Hunger Index and 180 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index.
WFP and other UN agencies support the Government of Sierra Leone in the implementation of its 'Agenda for Change' (2008-2012), which prioritizes agricultural and infrastructure development and improved social services through the UN Joint Vision and component 5 of the Smallholder Commercialization Programme: Social Protection, Food Security and Productive Social Safety Nets.
The overall situation in Sierra Leone has significantly improved since 2001, due to increased security. In 2011, Sierra Leone was ranked the 61st most peaceful country in the world out of 153 countries surveyed by the Global Peace Index (GPI). The subsequent 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 Change (2008-2012) the Government of Sierra Leone declared agricultural development and food security to be foundations for the country’s economic growth and poverty reduction.
The challenges facing Sierra Leone can be captured in a handful of bleak statistics. The average lifespan is roughly half that of western nations. Malnutrition ranks 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 with more than six out of ten people living on less than a euro a day. According to the 2011 comprehensive food security and vulnerability analysis (CFSVA), 45 percent of households or 2.5 million people are classified as food-insecure during the lean season.
Unemployment, especially among the youth, low labor productivity, lack of irrigation, over-harvesting and inadequate access to food markets as a result of poor road infrastructure continue to be risks to food security.