Sierra Leone is the only country in the world to express its founding principle in the name of its capital: Freetown. Free as were the 400 ex-slaves which at the end of the 18th century the British Empire sent to colonize this part of the coast of West Africa, half way between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator. And the land of their forefathers must have truly seemed a paradise to them, if to this day the beaches on the Freetown peninsula are among the most beautiful on Earth. Over time, the thick tropical forest has retreated towards the mountains further east, which culminate in the 1,945 meters of Mount Bintumani, leaving only the mangrove swamps to flourish in the coastal lowlands. The inland highlands also provide the country with a priceless natural resource: diamonds.
The value of hospitality
Perhaps the idyllic natural beauty of the landscapes contributes to the welcoming nature of Sierra Leoneans towards foreigners. The latter frequently find themselves offered some kola as a sign of friendship. Not the fizzy drink, but one of its ingredients, the kola nut. Kola is a plant in the same family as cocoa, which grows in the forests of Sierra Leone and Liberia. A little of this substance chewed after meals helps digestion, and its caffeine and theobromine content improve concentration. The Kola nut of the south-eastern district of Kenema, in particular, is famed for its flavor and consistency, to the point of becoming a Slow Food Presidium.
Another quality product is honey from the Koinadugu Forest in the northern part of the country, which differs from other honeys in its dark color, dense consistency and intense aroma of caramel and spice. The honey is gathered – from cylindrical hives made of raffia and hung on the treetops – by bee-keepers who climb the trees and bring the hives down to the ground, then opening them while keeping the bees away using smoke. The honey producers are usually also rice growers, who dedicate themselves to bees in periods when there is no work to be done in the rice-fields. Rice is actually Sierra Leone’s main food crop, and it has one of highest per capita rice consumption rates in Sub-Saharan Africa: on average each of the country’s 6 million inhabitants eats a quintal of rice per year.
This is why Sierra Leone is the only African nation to have its Expo Milano 2015 Pavilion located in the Rice Cluster.
Traditionally, rice is eaten with stews, made with meat, fish or spicy vegetables. On special occasions it is accompanied by Palm Wine, called poyo
, made by rapid fermentation of the lymph extracted from palm flowers.
Guaranteeing every family in Sierra Leone a complete and healthy diet is a top priority for the government. For this reason the country is pleased to present visitors to Expo Milano 2015 with a highly effective and sustainable idea: the Smart Farm Village, a place where everyone has complementary roles to play within a single shared purpose. In the Smart Farm Village rice growing is carried out, sustainable fishing practices are observed, small ruminants and hens are raised, there are health and food education centers, schools, a market, irrigation systems and energy production plants… in other words, a whole new model of rural development which aims to render farming communities more autonomous and reduce excessive emigration to the cities.