A group of excited, sickle-armed farmers, mainly women from the Bandakor Village community, sweated and sang in the scorching heat of a January afternoon as they lopped swaths of rice stalks from the ground.
They bent their knees as they picked up the weak stalks bearing the dry grains — an unusual way of harvesting rice, even by traditional standards.
The farmers were harvesting the first yields of the Bishop Yambasu Agriculture Initiative farm in the Gbondapi farmlands in Pujehun, southern Sierra Leone, where 75 acres were cultivated in 2021. The process of manual harvesting is slow, especially in the heat.
The initiative is a pilot project launched by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries two years ago. It is named in memory of Bishop John K. Yambasu of Sierra Leone who was instrumental in starting the effort to improve food security and strengthen farm communities across the continent. He was a fervent believer that United Methodist conferences in Africa can be self-reliant through agriculture. Yambasu died in a road accident in 2020.