Interviewing People in Sierra LeoneIssy interviews people in Sierra Leone
I have just got back from Sierra Leone where I was staying in the capital, Freetown. I was in Freetown for 3 weeks where I undertook a market assessment of Freetown’s improved cookstove market.

The Sierra Leone diet is similar to the Ghanaian diet; Fufu, Tilapia and Groundnut Soup are all common place. Another significant part of Sierra Leone diet are their green stews, made with either cassava leaf or potato leaf, but as I was talking to people about their eating habits, many of the guys would say they didn’t actually like it, which reminded me of my brothers adverse to anything green when we were growing up.

As I headed into town on the first day, I saw a mural which said ‘stop bush fires, stop charcoal burning, respect the law’ which was a little alarming, seeing as I’m here to research stoves that use charcoal. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be an initiative of USAID and the US Forest Service International Programs. I later learned that there is a ban on charcoal production in Freetown.

Going to the market is always a lot of fun, as there is so much to see and potentially buy, so conducting the market research  in the markets of Freetown was always going to be an exciting experience. 

The central market in Freetown appeared to be never ending streets of stalls. At first, I was aimlessly walking around trying to find stalls that were selling cookstoves. Eventually I gave in and asked around. The stall holders I spoke to said to head to Ferry Junction, which was in a different part of town. I couldn’t really believe that there wasn’t anyone who sold cookstoves in the centre of town. So I carried on wandering around with the hope of finding something, and it also allowed me to enjoy and see parts of Freetown. I eventually came across a stall selling traditional coal pots. The guy running the stall was called ‘Elder Rider’ (he even had a helmet to prove it). ‘Elder Rider’ was an interesting character. As I approached, he said ‘This is an African store.' I explained what I was doing and after a while he agreed to chat with me. He provided some interesting responses to my questions, and he was a great first interview to get my project started.

I spoke to a variety of Sierra Leoneans, including commercial cooks and caterers. One amazing lady was called Fatimata, and she had a business selling breakfasts and lunches to a large office in Freetown. She would get up at 2am to start cooking, and would leave for the office at 6am to provide the office workers with both breakfast and lunch. She also had to cook for her household of 5 people. I’m not sure if she ever slept!

Conducting Water Boiling TestsConducting water boiling tests
As a way of assessing how efficient the existing improved cookstoves that are available in Sierra Leone, I conducted a boiling water test on 3 different types of improved cookstoves and the traditional metal coal pots. I thought this was going to be fairly straight forward task, but it turned into somewhat difficult. I never thought the sight of boiling water would please me so much. Teaching myself how to competently use the cookstoves took some work, so when I finally had boiling water it felt like a huge success.

I have managed to meet with some great characters whilst in Sierra Leone, as well as see some amazing sights. I am now in my final few weeks working with Gyapa Enterprises before I go back to the UK.