Kayiben (the village of Yiben) is nestled in a remote area just south of the junction of the Rokel and Seli Rivers in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. Getting there is not easy.
The original access is a rugged 4-hour trek from the closest township of Fadugu, along a narrow path that winds through open grasslands and villages, over a mountain range, through scenic rainforest and running streams, to the Rokel River for a canoe crossing and a final rainforest hike. More recently a roughly bulldozed line to the east of the Rokel gave 4 wheel drive or motorbike access for a good part of the way, but this road has not been maintained since the ebola epidemic and the wet season has rendered it impassable to vehicles. Sometimes, if the river heights are suitable and the boat is operational, it is possible to motor some distance down the river and then link with a walking path.
The village is set in a cleanly swept rainforest clearing dotted with single-roomed, thatched mud-brick houses. The lifestyle and conditions here are largely traditional. There are no shops, no electricity, no transport, no medical services, and no waste …but there is a school. The Google Earth pictures of the village clearly show the school situated in a clearing a short walk to the north. The first, taken during the dry season in early 2012 shows the foundations, while the second, taken during the wet season of 2014 shows the finished building.
The people of Yiben and the surrounding villages are subsistence farmers and are very poor. They keep chickens and goats and enjoy ‘bush meats’. They depend entirely on the seasons to produce enough food for their families and some extra to trade for essentials at the market in Fadugu.
In the wet season they are able to grow a good variety of vegetables but often the dry season brings crop failures and the diet becomes mainly yams. This means poor nutrition and no produce for trading . Their isolation means they are disadvantaged by lack of access to basic services and communication.
Rarely visited by outsiders, the villagers are warm and welcoming. They are proactive in their development and they are very grateful for every improvement that will give them a better life.