Kayiben (the village of Yiben) is nestled in a remote area just south of the junction of the Seli (Rokel) and Mowoloko 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 Seli River for a canoe crossing and a final rainforest hike. In 2013 a roughly bulldozed line to the east of the Mowoloko River gave 4 wheel drive or motorbike access for a good part of the way, but this road is impassable to vehicles during the wet season and not maintained. Since 2018, a motor boat has provided wet season access along the Mowoloko to a point that connects with the original 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 and there is a maternal and child health clinic. The Google Earth picture of the village shows the school in a clearing a short walk to the north and the partially obscured clinic to the north-west.
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 poor access and communication services.
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.