Population: approximately 1,100
Distance from major town: 15 kilometers from Kolahun
Chairman: William Konneh
Chairwoman: Sonnie Kollie
Year group established: 2007
Tools distributed: Fifty each of cutlasses, hoes, shovels, diggers, axes, sickle knifes, wheelbarrows, rakes, and rainboots (25 pairs)
Seed distributed: 200 kg of S-8 variety rice
Baowahun is a community of approximately 1,100 members located one hour’s walk from Kolahun City, the capital of Kolahun District. The villagers of Baowahun travel approximately 1 hour for access to markets, schools and hospitals. This distance to critical services is one of the greatest hardships for Baowahun, requiring children to walk one hour each way to school and preventing treatment for many injuries due to the distance and harsh road conditions. The distance to schools is especially prohibitive because walking unattended is dangerous due to the high incidence of child trafficking, especially in border towns. However, the Chairlady of the Baowahun Farming Group, Sonnie Kollie, is hopeful that the proceeds from the sale of the farming group’s surplus rice will enable Baowahun to build a school in their town to allow her five children to attend without fear of getting hurt along the way.
Sonnie Kollie is the leader of the Baowahun Farming Group which was formed in 2007 with the help of Africa Development Corps (ADC). This farming group is exceptional in its leadership structure which has placed Sonnie in the most senior position. When the group meets every Thursday, Sonnie chairs the meeting and is responsible not only for assigning the tasks of the women in the group but also those of the men. Each week the work is discussed and delegated to working groups, each of which spend two days working in the swamp rice fields. As the first of four wives, with twenty children in her household and five of her own, Sonnie has a great deal of responsibility. When asked about her plans for the Baowahun Farming Group, she thinks of the women, both in the group and community as a whole, and “would like to give them a chance to make something out of themselves" by providing microloans from the swamp farm profits. Sonnie believes the women in the community are hard working and will capitalize on entrepreneurial opportunities such as establishing small businesses and small farms. Sonnie “hopes to see them empowered through the benefits for the USDA Food for Progress Program (FFP).”
The FFP program provided needed farming tools including cutlasses, axes, boots, sickle knives, shovels and diggers. These vital inputs were instrumental for swamp farming and assisted the community in expanding the acreage of both the community farm and personal farms. The modern agronomics training inspired the Baowahun women to initiate small farms. Prior to the FFP program, the majority of community rice farms were owned and managed by men. Since the training three women have already started personal farms using microloans from the Baowahun Farming Group to hire day laborers for strenuous tasks, such as harvesting and clearing.
Sonnie accredits the female business ventures to “the tools and post harvest equipment [provided by the FFP program funded by the US Department of Agriculture]. Both the tools and equipment [eased the] labor and make farming in the swamps possible”. Post harvest technology included a storage bin, drying slab, rice mill, and rice mill house. This technology has allowed the community to produce quality rice. The storage bin provides needed space to safely keep tools and provide shelter for rice to protect both from inclement weather and rats. The drying slab provides a space to protect the rice from pets, children and garbage. The rice mill affords the community a mechanized means of milling the rice resulting in fewer broken grains which increases its market value. Additionally, the rice mill decreased manual labor used to separate the grain from the husk. The rice mill has decreased the time necessary to complete this process from more than ninety minutes to ten minutes for a 50 kg bag of rice.
It is this increase in productivity and quality of product that will enable the group to significantly increase future profits. Through the efforts of USDA and ADC and dedicated farmers, the Baowahun Farming Group is able to generate a greater yield for market thereby maximizing profits, expanding farm acreage, recruiting labor, and investing in more tools and inputs. Sonnie has the vision necessary to utilize her group’s swamp rice farm for community development projects. Sonnie is “truly thankful to [ADC] for its work in Baowahun” and promises that she will “use the farm to make many good changes” in her community.