The Sierra Leone
Chesterton Center (SLCC)

Rural Community Partnership
for Social and Economic Development

Supported by Second Spring and Chestertonians worldwide

The SLCC is founded and directed by John Kanu. John is a consultant with more than 15 years experience in international development work. Living and working in post-war Sierra Leone, John has worked with a range of development agencies including the Catholic Relief Services, the International Rescue Committee, Management Systems International, and the United States Agency for International Development. John has also provided a range of consultancies both in Sierra Leone and a number of countries in Africa. He is from time to time consulted by the Government of Sierra Leone to provide advice on mineral policy and on how best to redistribute mining wealth to affected communities. John’s core competencies include deep insights of extractive sector policy in Africa, project monitoring and evaluation, community development facilitation and skills in civil society capacity strengthening. John holds a masters degree in Applied Social Studies from the University of Oxford and is currently providing consultancy services for the World Bank on sustainable livelihoods in communities affected by diamond mining in eastern Sierra Leone. The idea of the SLCC was conceived when John was studying at Plater College in Oxford prior to his university degree.


In partnership with rural communities, the SLCC is committed to promoting community-led development initiatives in Sierra Leone. Through the implementation of small-scale agricultural initiatives (SSAIs), the Centre facilitates processes that guarantee sustainable livelihoods for families in rural community settings. We mobilize improved and appropriate technologies and provide professional support to communities and individuals irrespective of creed, tribe, gender or race. The SLCC is also currently studying Sierra Leone’s mining laws and collaborating with like-mind local organizations to make the government re-distribute mining-related wealth to affected communities. John Kanu was invited to make a presentation in Freetown to government and donors on 22 November 2012 on how to redistribute wealth to local communities. Full report on request.


We envisage a vibrant Sierra Leonean society, active in the promotion of social and economic justice, a population where the rights of women and youth are respected and in their turn, desirous to perform their roles and responsibilities in their communities.

Strategic Goal

The socio-economic status of women and youth in rural communities is enhanced.

1. Introduction:

The Sierra Leone Chesterton Center (SLCC) is registered with the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government as an independent Community-Based Organization (CBO) in Sierra Leone. Headed by a National Coordinator, the Organization is overseen by a National Advisory Board comprising of experienced development organizations and the local Catholic parish. Established in 2002 around G.K. Chesterton’s ‘distributist’ ideas and the importance of the ‘rural economy’ and the family, the SLCC aims to enhance the social and economic status of poor families in rural communities. Focused on helping few families at a time in the communities we work, women and youth are the specific target beneficiaries of our work. In rural Sierra Leone, women and youth are the commonest social groups with little or no formal education and therefore, perpetually impacted by poverty. Our focus on the family and by extension the whole community is in recognition of fact that deep rooted poverty and social justice issues are better resolved by utilizing the values of these traditional African social networks.

In collaboration with various other local groups, the SLCC facilitates:

  • Access to agricultural land for women and youth;

  • Training in appropriate agricultural practices;

  • Provision of assistance in the form of seed grants (25-50 kg of ground nuts, rice, maize, millet) to families to engage in small-scale agricultural initiatives (SSAIs);

  • Organization of participating families into Farmer-Field-School Cooperatives (FFSC);

  • Identification of marketing opportunities, linking farmers to available markets ;

  • Provision of basic farm tools (cutlasses, hoes, barrows, shovels, mattocks, etc.);

  • Provision of community post-harvest facilities such as drying floors and storage facilities.

Our support and activities are structured around family and community priorities, according to the capacity and level of locally available resources. In other words, the SLCC’s strategy is to promote locally led development initiatives, ensuring that individuals and communities are able to make those decisions and choices that are critical to attain their desired results. While practical engagement with families and communities in their efforts to achieve self-sufficiency is important, the Center is aware of structural variables with potential to impede longer term community empowerment. To sustain our role and that of communities, we organize monthly context reflections and develop new strategies to address emerging challenges.

2. SLCC results to date:

In addition to the dedication of our volunteers and the generosity of two Chestertonians, Aidan Mackey and Stratford Caldecott, the SLCC is making a difference in diverse ways. Aidan Mackey for example has since 2004 supported our work with an average of one hundred pounds Sterling every quarter while Stratford continues to provide us with invaluable professional advice and encouragement. The stories and photographs below are true testimonies of how the SLCC is slowly creating the social capital necessary for economic and social progress in the lives of poor people in Sierra Leone.

a). Drop-out of school youth have returned back to school:

Mohamed Bangura, Anita Kanu,
Augustine Bangura

Mohamed Bangura (18), Anita Kanu (16) and Augustine Bangura (19) are classic examples of thousands of youth whose educational future would terminate before it even started. Like thousands of their counterparts, the three dropped out of school in 2008 due to their parent’s inability to meet rising school cost. While formal education is cherished by every Sierra Leonean family, high levels of poverty coupled with other competing family needs (health, food & housing) often compel families to make unsavory choices. Like Mohamed and his friends, a significant number of children from poor families drop out of school and will not be able to attain their full potential.

Few get the opportunity to return back to school either through the intervention of distant relatives or in the case of Mohamed and his friends, by learning about initiatives such as the SLCC. The three approached our home-based office in Waterloo and were encouraged to register as youth members. They attended SLCC trainings and their families were provided with 3 plots of land, farm tools and few bushels of ground nuts. At the end of the farming season last year, each family was able to set aside a bag (50 Kg) of the proceeds and each bag was sold at the local market for Le.150,000 ($ 50). This has helped Mohamed and his friends to return back to school this year. Mohamed called a few days ago to informs us that he has been accepted as a candidate for the Basic Education Certificate Education (BECE) while Anita and Augustine have proceeded to class 5 and form 2, respectively.

b). From the proceeds of one planting season, young women have started their small businesses:

Ballay Kanu, Jane Kanu
Ruggie Kamara

A closer look at the photographs I sent last year will help you recognize these women. Except in extraordinary cases requiring longer term support, the SLCC assistance is based on a one-off philosophy. To prevent our beneficiaries from reverting to their former situations, we integrate informal skills training mechanisms in every aspect of our work. This approach has helped Ballay, Jane and Ruggie to branch out into small formal businesses one year after participating in the SLCC community farm in Newton village.

c). Progress on a proposed Chesterton Health Center at Newton village:

In line with our mission and vision, the SLCC is committed to promoting communitarian values and supporting community-led development initiatives. An emerging initiative at Newton Village is the development of a Community Health and Multi-purpose Center. This facility will be called the SL Chesterton Center, and through a local health nurse, the center will provide basic health advice to young women and youth in the community.

Proposed Chesterton Health Centre in Newton Village
The proposed Chesterton
Health Centre in Newton Village

Despite the fact that Newton village is only 20-25 miles outside Freetown, this community of over a thousand people has no functional health facility. During a community meeting held early this year, community members prioritized the creation of a health center as a burning need. When asked about how such a need would be met, community members decided to set aside every Friday of the week to mobilize local materials and voluntarily work on this project. The SLCC contributed by paying for the corrugated zinc, nails and few bags of cement. The entire construction was done by the community itself and, no doubt, this community will be very proud to own this facility when it is completed.

d). Provide access to ten hectares of farm land to few families at a time:

Farmland in Newton village
Farmland in Newton Village

Access to land for women and youth is one critical justice issue in many rural communities in Sierra Leone. Despite the fact that women and youth are the main source of labor in what is largely an agrarian economy, the country’s customary laws does not allow women to own land. Last year, the SLCC successfully negotiated access to ten hectares of land with the Newton village local authority (see photo). Our aim at the time was to use this land as a community demonstration farm. While this land remains our main training facility to help young women and youth learn improved farming techniques, it has also been a critical asset which allows landless women to grow their own crops. At the beginning of every season, the land is divided into ten farm plots, each with a capacity to grow 50 Kg of crop. The type of crop is based on individual or family choice. Some may choose to grow ground nuts, others rice or maize.

In addition to these, the SLCC has been making progress in strengthening our links with various partners. This year, we look forward to welcoming Rev. Fr. Peter Conteh and Mrs. Salaymatu Kamara as our newest members to the Advisory Board. Through Fr. Conteh, we hope forge a closer partnership with the Waterloo Catholic parish.

3. What the SLCC wants to change:

Without doubt, the above success stories are very uplifting, but the road towards social and economic transformation and prosperity for the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans is long and winding. Locally defined as “a state of hunger, uncertainty of where the next meal will come from, living in a large household, sick and unable to see a doctor, unable to go to school, no jobs or access to safe drinking water and the feeling of powerlessness” (Sierra Leone: PRSP Report, 2005); poverty continues to be the main cause of inequalities in Sierra Leone. There is wide disparity in poverty’s geographical distribution mainly affecting women and youth in rural communities. In the poorest districts, where war destroyed the social and economic infrastructure, 8 out of 10 people live in poverty.

Poverty indicators in Sierra Leone are reflected in the very low level of human development and the conditions under which the majority of people exist. Maternal and infant mortality rates are nearly the worst in the world. There are also other poverty indicators such as the increasing female-headed subsistence farming households. Prevailing world economic conditions further deteriorate the social conditions of vulnerable groups such as women, youth and those with little or no formal education. The Sierra Leone government insists that 1% of economic growth in rural communities will reduce the incidence of individual poverty by 0.8% in such communities. It is against this background that the SLLC is contributing to make a difference.

4. What is needed:

  1. Transportation: One of the greatest challenges in our work is limited ability to perform outreach work especially during the rainy season. Access to one or two motor bikes for our volunteers will make a whole lot of difference to in our work and in reaching those who are most in need.

  2. Communication: As we expand our links with other partners, the need to communicate not only the issues affecting people, but also to report our activities is becoming more urgent. For this purpose, one computer and a printer for the Secretariat will help tremendously.

  3. Finance: Up to date, the SLCC primarily depends on member contributions and support from Aidan Mackey. Uncertainty of funding restricts our ability to provide quality services to farmers. In few instances, we are forced to abandon meaningful projects. For example, our support to farmers can be much more meaningful if we are able to provide post-harvest assistance (such as drying floors and food processing facilities) in addition to initial seed inputs.

5. List of members of the National Advisory Board




Mr. Abu A. Brima


Network Movement of Justice & Development

Rev. Fr. Peter Conteh

Deputy Chairman

Archdiocesan Development Office

Mrs. Salaymatu Kamara

Women’s Welfare Representative

Tamaranneh Gender Development Organization

Mrs. Yombo Conteh

Community Representative

Women Farmers Association

Miss. Rugiatu Kamare

Former beneficiary

Masianday Farmer Cooperative

Mr. Samuel Bagbon Kamara


Newton Area Farmer Cooperative

Mr. Mohamed Bangura

Youth Leader

Youth Development Organization

Councilor Ibrahim Conteh

Local Development Advisor

Waterloo District Council