Guarding Sierra Leone’s Forests with Education

22 February 2012 | News story

This update on recent communication and education initiatives to preven deforestation of the Upper Guinean Forest region in Sierra Leone come from the Environmental Foundation for Africa, headed by CEC member Tommy Garnett.

By Jamal Malik, EFA

While it is estimated that forests originally covered 70–90% of Sierra Leone, years of colonial exploitation, conflict, urbanization, and unsustainable farming practices have left only patchwork bits (estimated now at 4% land-cover). As our forests protect a threatened “biodiversity hotspot,” we enacted a broad environmental awareness campaign complemented by separate, more focused initiatives tailored toward protecting the two most precious and threatened forest areas in Sierra Leone.

It is our first priority to conduct a wide-reaching media campaign to raise awareness about our natural endowments. Currently we are working with Promoting Agricultural Governance and Environment (PAGE), traveling to several districts across the country to distribute booklets such as our periodical, Natural Resources Watch. In addition we are collaborating with the BBC World Service Trust to produce a radio program on sustainability that will be broadcasted nationally. During our national circuit we will give talks at schools on the importance of environmentalism and show short educational films made by EFA and others, including STEWARD (Sustaining Thriving Environments for West Africa Regional Development). Last, we will film examples of best-practice agricultural techniques and air the short segments on national television as an instructive visual aid.

Second, in a collaboration with Welthungerhilfe, EFA are traveling to the southeastern districts, which border the last significant block of primary forest in Sierra Leone and host the Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary, where EFA has been leading conservation efforts since 2001 . A resource shared with neighboring Liberia, the Gola Forest is threatened by slash-and-burn tactics, logging, and poaching; in addition, lack of infrastructure, low literacy rates, skilled manpower shortage, and very low tech equipment hamper the ability of the citizens to adequately create an income from their farm production. The primary goal of this project, Food Security for Economic Development, is to provide the populations with adequate means and knowledge to provide for themselves and distribute their goods in a sustainable manner by promoting sustainable agricultural technique, strengthening infrastructure, and developing capacity.

Third, EFA are proud to be nearing completion of the construction of a Biodiversity and Renewable Energy Learning Centre just south of Freetown, close to the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve (WAPFR). This site will provide interactive exhibits and presentations for children and adults alike to learn about the numerous threats to the WAPFR, the importance of protecting endangered species, and the unique biodiversity of our region.

For more information, contact Jamal Malik at jamalahmedmalik@efasl.org.uk