After nearly 15 years of civil war, many families have only recently begun to return to their homes in Liberia. For the approximate 500,000 displaced persons and refugees that fled their homes to camps within Liberia or to neighboring Guinea, Ivory Coast or Ghana, rebuilding their former lives in incredibly challenging.
Those families in rural Lofa County, who are largely dependent on subsistence agriculture, are returning to their homes only to find that their communities have been destroyed-homes demolished, fields overgrown, and schools and clinics decimated. While international aid has helped to rebuild many schools and clinics, the tough work of cultivating land that has returned to some resemblance of a forest is incredibly laborious.
Some families have returned without loved ones who were lost due to the violence or died in refugee camps. One mother in Boi with whom I spoke, is unable to send her young children to school because she needs their help with farming and daily household chores. Without a husband to help support the family and work load, some families, such as Kai’s, must rely on their children to help with the daily functions of life, sacrificing their ability to learn through the local school.
While many people comment on the richness of the soil in Lofa County, the constant upkeep proves incredibly labor-intensive in communities where everything is done with manual labor. In an attempt to help these families rebuild their lives and move beyond mere subsistence, SADS is working to train and educate young people and women on alternative projects such as soap-making and small livestock rearing. The hope is that as these families rebuild their lives, they can also begin to build a more sustainable future for themselves.
In my next blog, I hope to highlight the connection rural Lofa County residents maintain with their forest surroundings.