Living in the Community – The Shape of Fintonia

Over the course of the next couple of days we spent training the guys in the techniques and discussing the issues around land ownership in this part of Sierra Leone. We would start early in the morning and we tried out different types of plot.  After the initial trial in the small open clearing opposite the house, we ramped up the difficulty.  I realised there were different types of land use in many Sierra Leone villages and Fintonia was a classic model.  In the centre of the village were most of the buildings.  The immediate surrounds, particularly at the back of the houses, were store houses, latrines and a hard pan of land used for most domestic activities – cooking, washing, laundry, fixing bits and pieces.  In the plots behind this there was usually a kitchen garden where high value and small crops were grown.  I’d seen maps the previous year of villages in Guinea where the word “Peppiniere” was used.  I was a little confused at first but comparing that to where I was in Sierra Leone I now saw it was the same kitchen gardens, predominantly where higher value chillies and other peppers, herbs or spices were grown.  The big cereal crops were grown much further away; I suppose since land was at such a premium close to the housing.  Two types of this agriculture existed.  Sierra Leone was riddled with little river valleys; the humpy bumpy nature of the terrain here meant you were likely to cross one of these every kilometre or two.  While some dried out on the surface every season, they still contained a high water table of wet, organic soil that was vital for good yields.  Irrigated rice cropping occurred here but also vegetables and some fruits would be grown.  On surrounding hillsides land was much poorer quality and drier.  Here other cereal crops such as maize and dryland rice could be grown.  The scrub was being extensively slashed and burnt to make new fields for this kind of cropping.  In between the dryland and the wetland Fintonia had conserved a wedge of high value forest.  Yes some agroforestry went on here, but the forest was also used for beekeeping and the clay extraction, and other activities; there were pools for bathing – women in one area, men in another.

fintonia

Fintonia – with thanks to Google Earth

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