Since 2014 the ‘Darwin Sherbro Oyster Project’, funded through the UK Darwin Initiative, has worked with remote communities in the Sherbro River Estuary, Sierra Leone to offer more sustainable livelihoods for women based on the culture, processing and marketing of native mangrove oysters (Crassostrea tulipa). Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world. Finding effective solutions has required close partnership between locals, scientists from Freetown and Njala Universities in Sierra Leone and the UK’s University of Stirling and the Whitstable Oyster Company (WOC).
On the 22nd of June 2019 team members hosted the third annual ‘Bonthe Oyster Festival’. Following the successful format of previous years, events which attracted over 100 entrants included oyster smoking and recipe contests, a speed-shucking competition as well as music. Winners of improved oyster steaming-troughs and cash prizes included previous year’s victors Ms Seinya Sie of Gbongboma village (smoked oysters) and Mammie Kode of York Island (speed-shucking). TV and radio coverage was provided by BBC South East and local community station ‘Imperri Radio’. Vitally, the Whitstable Oyster Company has committed to funding implementation of the project for a further five years. Primary focus will be on quality assurance measures for value-added marketing and promotion of the 'Sherbro Oyster’ brand through local radio and further annual festivals.