In Sierra Leone, Ginger Trade Helps Recovery: Sierra Leone's Export Development Authorities Are Working to Revitalize the Ginger Industry, a Route out of Poverty after Years of War. This Story Is Based on an Interview with Abu Bakkar Kebbay, from the Export Development Agency of the Ministry of Trade and Industry

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by Trade Forum team

"The civil war between 1990 and 2001 created at least 1 million refugees and largely destroyed our services. The United Nations declared us safe in 2002 but some people still don't know that the war has ended and business people remember the atrocities they saw," says Abu Bakkar Kebbay. "As a result, few people come to Sierra Leone to do business. We are still suffering from this image of a country at war."

To help reintegrate returning refugees and internally displaced farmers, the new Government sought to revitalize sectors in which Sierra Leone had been successful before the war. Spices are one such sector, as they provide many opportunities to create jobs for large numbers of people, thus helping to reduce poverty.

Spices also have high export potential. When the Government of Sierra Leone looked to stimulate the economy, it focused on encouraging new business ventures and export opportunities with high growth potential. Within this context, it identified the development of the spice sector in general, and ginger production and exports in particular, as a priority of its economic development strategy to create jobs and generate income for displaced farmers.

Jobs and income

Selling superior-quality ginger to European markets is one such export opportunity. Its appeal is that it can bring revenues to the poorest groups and provide jobs, particularly for women.

The Government had attempted to revive ginger exports a few years earlier, but abandoned the project because of the war. A once-flourishing export business, Sierra Leone's ginger trade had dried up due to competition from Asian countries, which grew a variety of ginger more prized in the West.

In 2002, as part of an assistance package from China, the Sierra Leone Export Development and Investment Corporation (SLEDIC) obtained 53 tonnes of Chinese seed ginger. SLEDIC distributed it to chiefdoms in the ginger-producing areas of Moyambo and Kambia, with training and field demonstrations. But bad agricultural practices and inexperience with the improved variety meant that the harvest was relatively poor.

In October 2003 the Ministry of Trade approached ITC to help develop ginger exports. ITC developed a programme to provide work and income for more than 9,000 subsistence farmers, especially women, who account for over 60% of Sierra Leone's agricultural labour.

An international expert made a preliminary assessment of the supply and demand conditions. He proposed exporting processed ginger to Europe in the second year of production, with better methods and technology. Peeling, drying and processing ginger increases its value by about 90% and provides work for more women on the farms.

Unexpected demand, mobile phones and bikes

ITC held a technical workshop on post-harvest treatment of ginger, and provided advice on demand, trends and market promotion. …