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closely with Sierra Leonean experts in universities and government agencies businesses that use state-of-the-art methods and are managed by international teams including Sierra Leonean professionals costs by obtaining free advice from business and technical experts business surplus into programs to improve health, education and living conditions, and to support entrepreneurs modern monitoring methods that include evaluations by independent observers

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Click on the image above to launch an animation explaining our Jobs Change Everything
strategy for unraveling the snare of generational poverty.

The Case for Village Hope

In 2014 the United Nation’s Human Development Index ranked Sierra Leone 183 out of 187 countries based on life expectancy, education and income. This ranking reflects how villagers of Sierra Leone experience life. They are mainly subsistence farmers struggling to grow crops in extremely poor soil. Living in poverty, they are vulnerable to malnutrition and devastating disease, with the highest rate of infant mortality in Africa. They are being offered hope through the work of Village Hope, Inc. as we seek to ensure that women and men, girls and boys will benefit equally from a community development framework that will create a sustainable economy.

Dr. Jon Bart, a retired research scientist and humanitarian, founded Village Hope, Inc. in 2007. After first successfully building, equipping and supplying a village school as well as building latrines and wells and initiating microfinance projects, Village Hope, Inc. has developed a comprehensive strategy that now includes a commercial cassava farm to advance far-reaching change. Village Hope comprises Sierra Leonean managers as well as US volunteers as supporters. While team members work without pay, the focus of their work is to create a healthy, sustainable economy guided by the Village Hope motto: Jobs Change Everything.

Village Hope has recently established the cassava farm in Masori, a village in the Northern Province, where they will soon build a gari processing plant. It will engage those who want to work in meaningful, gainful employment based on modern agriculture methods as well as commercial gari production. Gari is a food staple, produced from cassava, for which there are large markets. Village Hope has established the 180-acre cassava farm over the past several years. It is managed by Sierra Leoneans, including a successful entrepreneur; a research agronomist associated with the Sierra Leone Agriculture Research Institute, and experienced local farmers. In the coming year Village Hope will build the gari processing plant, which will also be managed and staffed by Sierra Leoneans. Proceeds will fund essential social and health services as well as improvements in education in Masori.

Village Hope aims to replace poverty with the infrastructure for a middle class life, marked by confidence and optimism. The future will truly hold hope. No longer will children die in great numbers before their fifth birthday, and all can be nourished well and educated. They will grow up to serve as the new leaders of a country that was once a proud center of learning in Africa. Women can count on the protection of their human rights. Men and women both, who want to work, will be able to work and receive an income for nourishing food, for health services, for their children’s education and for dependable housing. This is what it means to live a middle class life with reasonable expectation for a secure future. The strategy of Village Hope, Inc. aims to make such a life possible for Sierra Leoneans. While Village Hope currently works in Sierra Leone, the strategy is scalable worldwide.

We believe a comprehensive stategy is needed to achieve lasting peace and prosperity.

Village Hope, Inc | PO Box 1636, Boise, 83701 | (208) 870-9806 | info@villagehopeinc.org

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Part of our second cassava farm, planted in 2013

Our first enterprise under the “charity-business model” (see What We Do) is a cassava farm and processing center. Cassava is a tuberous plant, widely grown in the tropics.

Working closely with government scientists, we planted 50 acres of cassava in 2012 and another 130 acres in 2013. We were ready to harvest the tubers by 2014, but unfortunately the Ebola epidemic began then. Cassava tubers can remain in the ground for up to two years after they mature, however, so we can still harvest them in 2016.
Cassava  is  the  third  largest  source  of  carbohydrates  in  the  tropics.



Gari is packaged in moisture proof bags and sold retail
in 1-kg bags (upper) or wholesale in 65-kg bags (lower)

Gari is a dried, roasted, granular product made from cassava tubers (see Cassava Farm). We have studied the value chain for gari intensively. Using traditional methods to produce gari, it is not possible to pay workers high wages and make any profit, but with modern methods a substantial profit can be made. These methods include:

  • Farm equipment to grow and harvest the cassava
  • Mechanical peeling of the tubers
  • Processing peels into pellets for pigs and chickens
  • Mechanical grating and sieving
  • Large rotary roasters
  • Packaging equipment
  • Trucks to transport the final product to market
  • Gari  is  widely  consumed  throughout  West  Africa.


    Other Businesses

    Farmers learning how to use modern methods.
    A large network of extension agents, supervised by government scientists, exists in Sierra Leone.

    During the past four years, we have investigated several other potential businesses: While more study is needed, our initial findings are:

  • Rice offers high potential for growth and profits
  • Aquaculture may be useful but involves substantial technical problems
  • Coffee is better suited to higher areas of the country but then might be profitable
  • Poultry could be a good source of nutritious food and employment but will probably not produce significant surplus funds.

  • Overall, we conclude that we are not restricted to cassava; many other opportunities exist for businesses that can pay high salaries and will generate funds for community projects.
    With  proven  success  in  one  business,  we  expect  to  operate  many  others  as  well.



    Obai Kamara of Robomp to whom we gave a small
    loan so he could start a black smith shop.

    In 2009, we established 8 microfinance groups, with a total of 80 women and men, in 8 villages surrounding Lunsar. We worked with them for the next few years but found that they were unable to make money — a result that has occurred, unfortunately, in other remote areas of Africa.

    Our new program, however, should make it easier for entrepreneurs to succeed, because we will be able to offer them more assistance, for example:
  • market analyses
  • Transportation
  • Repair shops

  • In the Farmers Assistance Program, which we will carry out with Extension Agents, cooperating farmers will be offered much larger loans enabling them to obtain fertilizer, use of tractors, and markets for their products. This assistance should substantially increase their incomes.
    Loans  are  an  essential  part  of  our  approach  but  other  activities  are  also  be  needed.


    Gender Equality

    Kadiatu Bangura, the leader of one of
    our first microfinance groups.

    Women were our best microfinance customers, and our first team leader in the cassava business was a woman. Typically, women in the villages where we work are serious about employment and professional advancement. Toward promoting gender equality, our plans include the following goals:

  • Half the employees — and supervisors — are women
  • Women receive the same salaries as men
  • Women are encouraged to hold all jobs
  • Day care programs are provided

  • Health
  • Free food is provided to pregnant women
  • Family planning assistance is available on request

  • Professional development
  • Adult education classes are available at nominal cost
  • Training and low-cost loans are available to women entrepreneurs
  • Opportunities exist to save
  • Formation of women’s groups is encouraged
  • Village  Hope  is  committed  to  helping  women  realize
     their  full  professional  and  personal  potential.


    During 2009-2012, we worked with MIT and the Harvard Graduate School of Design on the ways to build more inspiring schools using local materials.

    A school we built using standard methods in Sierra Leone is shown at the left. It’s a big improvement over no school, but local materials like bamboo (below, left) and fired clay brick (below) offer a chance to use our money for salaries not cement and at the same time construct gorgeous buildings.
    Children  everywhere  deserve  a  chance  to  pursue  their  dreams.



    We expect mentoring to be a major part of the educational program. We are particularly interested in sister school programs in which American students tutor African students in English, math, and other elementary subjects and African students help Americans learn about a culture far different from their own. We have named the program after the local word for sister, sista (see-sta). SISTA stands for:

  • Students In Service To Africa
  • Students In Service to America
  • SISTA:  Students  In  Service  to  Africa/  Students  In  Service  to  America



    St. John of God Hospital in Lunsar, run by a religious
    group from Italy. In 2008, the Director sadly
    told us, “For most patients, we are just working on the
    symptoms of malnutrition. The solution is not better
    hospitals; it is better agriculture.”

    Our project area has a health clinic with intelligent, dedicated staff. But the facility needs to be improved, medical equipment and supplies are insufficient, and better medical and logistics support is needed. Based on interviews with the staff, we have established the following health goals:
  • Restore the clinic and supply it with needed items
  • Pay for regular visits by a doctor from Makeni
  • Provide transportation for the nurses and for patients
  • Introduce internet-based medical methods
  • Insure that a dentist and eye doctor visit regularly
  • Provide a computer and help the nurses keep records
  • Support the nurses’ efforts in public health
  • Provide opportunities for continuing education
  • Malnutrition,  malaria,  intestinal  parasites,  hernia,  cholera,  typhoid  fever,  and  now  Ebola



    Kids at a well we built in 2010.

    In developed countries, governments provide public utilities. The government of Sierra Leone is not yet able to provide these services so we will establish and maintain them using surplus from the cassava business. Carrying out community projects like these is an essential component of our charity- business model. The services include:

  • year-round roads
  • electricity
  • high-speed internet
  • a public water supply
  • adequate waste disposal
  • Many development experts say the barriers to development are "roads, roads, roads."