The Ebola Epidemic and the state of the cocoa sector in Sierra Leone
1. The Ebola Epidemic in Sierra Leone’s Cocoa Belt
The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) has been raging in West Africa since the beginning of this year. Among the affected countries Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have been hit hardest. The current outbreak is unprecedented in scale and has claimed more lives and displayed a greater spread than any other epis ode in history. To make matters worse, it has spilled from rural areas into urban centers, a factor which distinguishes it from previous outbreaks.
In Sierra Leone the virus has spread across all of the country's 15 districts, infecting 5.06 people and claiming 1. 522 lives according to official figures from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (as of.11.2014). The eastern part of the country - which is also referred to as Sierra Leone's Cocoa Belt - has been particularly affected by the epidemic : In mid-August (15.08.2014) the three eastern districts of Kailahun, Kenema and Kono drew in a share of 88% of the total number of confirmed Ebola cases within the country. Seeing the emergence of new Ebola hotspots further west (namely the districts of Port Loko, Bombali and Western Area which now feature the highest cumulative count of cases and the most new infections) this sh are has dropped to 19 % (as of 30.11.2014) during the past three months. However, the disease has left its marks in the area, impacting the cocoa sector and constraining the economy at large. (For more information please see Welthungerhilfe's briefing paper on “The Non - Medical Impacts of the Ebola Crisis in Sierra Leone” published on 07.10.2014.)
With funding from the European Commission Welthungerhilfe has been implementing the Cocoa Development Project in the districts of Kenema, Kailahun and Kono in eastern Sierra Leone since July 2013. The project follows the objectives of improving the cocoa value chain by increasing the production of quality beans, promoting improved processing techniques and strengthening farmers‘ access to markets. Based on Welthungerhilfe's long-standing involvement in Sierra Leone's cocoa sector and its extensive knowledge of the industry and its players, this briefing paper pursues to give a first account of the current state of the cocoa sector in the context of the country's devastating Ebola epidemic.