The traditional fruit of hospitality is bringing welcome relief to many farming families in Sierra Leone, Africa. Historically grown in small quantities and contained to household backyards, pineapples in Sierra Leone have provided limited food and income for farming families. Now, thanks to World Hope International, the official Christian relief and development partner of The Wesleyan Church, pineapples are rapidly multiplying across Sierra Leone’s countryside, preventing poverty along the way.

Before pineapples, there were mangos

WHI’s pineapples initiative expands on the success of the Mango Outgrowers Project. This supply chain supporting enterprise started in Sierra Leone in 2009 to help farmers capitalize on the country’s abundance of wild mangos–mangos that had been rotting due to a lack of demand–and connect farmers with an international juice processing company. Within the first three mango seasons, which span the months of May and June, the 157 mango cooperatives collected 3.1 million pounds of mangos, resulting in over $68,000 of generated income.

Why pineapples?

With a large number of farming families in Sierra Leone living on less than $1 a day, the income generated from the sale of mangos substantially increases livelihoods. The short two-month harvest, however, leaves many farmers vulnerable for the remaining ten months. Responding to the cries for a crop with a longer growing season, as well as the high demand for pineapples on the international juice market, WHI introduced the crop on a commercial scale to the country in September 2012. WHI supports pineapple cooperatives in Sierra Leone, providing smallholder farmers with extensive agriculture training to ensure the project is self-sustaining. Farmers then prepare the land, plant the pineapples, and attend to them until harvest, a process typically lasting 15 months.

No more hungry months

During the months in between planting, Sierra Leonean farming families can typically only afford to eat one meal a day–if they’re fortunate. Pineapples, however, can be grown and harvested year round, providing a consistent stream of income for farmers and eliminating Sierra Leone’s “hungry months.”

Cultivating cash

Once pineapples are harvested, WHI organizes centrally-located pick-up points, where farmers are paid for their produce. The high market demand combined with low supply means farming cooperatives see substantial gross revenue generated from the pineapples–up to $52,000 per harvest.

The key: A hand-up, not a hand-out

Because of pineapples’ year-round harvest and high market prices, large-scale pineapple farming is attractive to nearly all Sierra Leonean farmers. The poorest farming families, however, lack the capital to invest in the resources required for planting. WHI bridges this gap between opportunity and capacity by providing the initial hand-up necessary to get farmers started, covering the cost of all training, agricultural inputs, irrigation, and machinery. Over the course of multiple successful harvest seasons, farmers will gain the means to invest back into the project. Just as they were provided with an initial hand-up, farmers’ reinvested resources help provide future farming cooperatives with the hand-up they need to begin planting. WHI requires the reinvestment in order to create a sustainable cycle of farmers supporting other farmers.

Pineapples’ reach

The impact of pineapples doesn’t end with farmers, however. Additional program revenue generated from pineapples can be used towards other WHI programs working to alleviate poverty, including global health, clean water, anti-trafficking, and education. In the end, farmers see substantially increased incomes and food security, and thousands of others in need are able to be served.

Room to grow: how you can help

“World Hope International’s ‘Planting Pineapples, Harvesting Hope’ program offers a sustainable, grass-roots initiative that truly responds to Christ’s call to serve ‘the least of these–the hungry, the oppressed, and the forgotten,” said Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church. “In an innovative new approach to rural development, WHI offers poor Sierra Leonean farmers trapped by a lack of resources and opportunity the path towards consistent food and income. Because the majority of WHI’s pineapple farms operate in villages with an existing Wesleyan church, Wesleyan congregations in the U.S. are linked with those in Sierra Leone, further strengthening the global church. ‘Planting Pineapples, Harvesting Hope’ has the potential to not only rejuvenate the lives of farming families, but to spread the love of Christ across an entire country.”

Some Wesleyan churches, including Central Wesleyan Church in Holland, Mich., have already pledged their support.

“Central Wesleyan Church (CWC) has been partnering with World Hope International in Sierra Leone for 15 years, and the resulting development work has been transformational–both for the communities we’re serving and our own people,” said, George Beals, CWC Global Impact Pastor. “We’re proud to partner with WHI supporting pineapple farms in Sierra Leone. We know this project will help rural farming families achieve food security, and generate income to be used for education, health care, and continued village development.”

WHI’s pineapples initiative is just taking off, with plenty of room to grow. To learn more or to support the reemergence of pineapples in Sierra Leone, visit donate now.