Ebola outbreak – interview with Dominic Moiwo, 42, produce buying agent, specializing in cocoa, in Kailahun District, Sierra Leone
Two years following the declaration of an Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa, communities and governments in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are moving into the recovery phase, determined to make their countries stronger before Ebola decimated families, economies and health care systems.
During the outbreak, farmers were not allowed to tend to their fields, affecting both food production and the ability of families to earn a livelihood.
Dominic Moiwo is a produce buying agent for a company in Sierra Leone which exports cocoa to Europe. He talks of business before and during Ebola, and how long he expects it will take to recover.
DOMINIC MOIWO, PRODUCE BUYING AGENT SPECIALIZING IN COCOA, KAILAHUN DISTRICT, SIERRA LEONE
What was business like before Ebola came?
00:00 – 00:25 There’s quite a vast difference. Before this time, I was having a lot, a lot of customers. But Ebola killed most of them. And most of the money which I created from the company, most have got lost. Yes, because I could not say, somebody who’s dead, go to their family to pay the money. There’s no way.
(Talking about government restrictions which forbid movement between districts)
00:25 – 00:38 And there’s cut off. That nobody moves from here to Kenema and nobody moves from Kenema to here, except the officials, those who are dealing with the medicine.
00:38 – 00:55 So we were here, eating that money. Yes, no business. I didn’t do business in my company last year during the Ebola time. Because they were fearing that if I get the money, maybe, I would die or subsequently I give to farmers, then they die too.
(Talking about receiving a loan from an agricultural bank, just two months before the Ebola outbreak started)
00:55 – 01:03 That money, I ate that money. And now it’s quite difficult for me to pay that money. I’m paying it but it’s quite difficult.
01:03 – 01:22 The business really slow, and the yield also. I don’t know whether it’s the climatic change. Normally, the yield from the cocoa farms is greater, but now this is less. Yeah, because what we observed is, there was too much rain.
01:22 – 01:38 Cocoa plant, tree doesn’t need too much rain and too much sun. So, this year, there was too much rain and therefore it washed down the flowers and, therefore, the yield is very small this year. So it’s quite difficult this year to do business.
01:38 – 02:03 I used to buy maybe, maybe sometimes 150 tonnes to 300 tonnes when the yield is better. Because, it’s not me alone buying here. I used to get 150, 300 and so on, I used to get that, but this year, it’s quite less.
02:03 – 02:10 My boss got feared to give me money. Because Ebola cannot spare anybody.
02:10 – 02:20 The money they gave to me was very small, very small. I could not buy even up to 25 tonnes.
For the cocoa you did get, what could you do with it if quarantines prevented people from travelling from one district to the next?
02:20 – 02:39 It was very, very, very, very difficult. Very, very difficult. You can buy the cocoa today, like for now, normal, you call for trucks and the trucks will come the other day. But during that time, that cocoa will stay with you over one month.
02:39 – 03:16 The quality suffers because during that time it was raining, it was raining. In front of my store, you can see, is the highway, coming from Kenema. The ambulance used to bring the people, the Ebola patients all over the country to this Kailahun. Sometimes I put the cocoa outside. When I hear the sound of the ambulance I ran into the store because sometimes those patients used to spit out and it was quite dangerous.
03:16 – 03:29 Now the quarantine is off, of course the business is moving but not as much, as I told you, the quantity of cocoa is less and that is what we are suffering from.
03:29 – 03:41 We are many buying, too much competition buying small things so, the price moving, and even when you buy, you don’t get any interest. We are almost buying for the bosses.
How many tonnes of cocoa do you expect to purchase this year?
03:41 – 03:56 I’m thinking, I’m thinking, maybe because the quantity’s down I’m thinking I’ll go around 120, yes, because I’ve gone up to 75 tonnes.
03:56 – 04:16 This is less but I mean, it’s better than during the time of Ebola. Because before Ebola, 150 to 300, and now, during Ebola, 20, and now, after Ebola, I’m going, I’m sure of going up to 120 tonnage, because of the yield.
How long will it take you to fully recover?
04:16 – 04:25 This is going to take up , from my own perspective, up to 5 years, up to 5 years.
04:25 – 04:49 Ebola, that is the worst enemy ever since, in fact, to me it’s worse since the war we experienced here. Because, during war, you cross to the neighbouring country and you will be accepted, but during Ebola, they close it. You don’t go to nowhere. Only you’ll be ready to die.