Island Biodiversity Day, celebrated annually, on 22nd May. It was dedicated to Islands in 2014 during the United nations General Assembly Session in Samoa, to escalate their vulnerabilities; and having joined this global movement to promote environmental management and biodiversity protection, this year’s celebration therefore escalated nature preservation and coastal island management.
The coasts and Islands’ environmental assets along the great scarcies, rokel and bangasoka rivers, Sewa/Moa rivers and Atlantic Ocean have long been under serious threat, occasioned by the harsh human activities, viz, deforestation, coastal habitat depletion/degradation and, pollution, which effects have led to environmental shocks/disasters, biodiversity loss and habitat/ecosystem destruction.
The environmental, ecological, social and economic vulnerabilities of the Islands and coasts in the country are escalated in line with the policy objectives and implementation strategies of the Secretariat on the Convention of Biological Diversity, Samoa Pathway (2014) and UN Agenda 21, geared towards increasing the understanding and awareness of biodiversity, Island resilience and environmental sustainability.
To this end, our organisation then decided to join the United Nations and other International agencies to celebrate Island Biodiversity Day, which day as already highlighted dedicated to all island territories in the world, on the occasion of the UN General Assembly Session in Samoa, in 2014.
A cross section of Island Stakeholders including traditional leaders
The theme for this year’s Island Biodiversity day is “We are Part of the Solution for Nature”, which is to bring awareness for environmental sustainability, biodiversity protection and nature preservation and restoration.
And with effective community participation and catalysed commitment and involvement of state actors and other stakeholders in the movement or campaign for the sustainable preservation and conservation of the universe, it however provided innovative solutions for resilience island communities, environmental sustainability, biodiversity protection and sustainable livelihood as against the growing risk of climate change, sea level rise, habitat loss/destruction, deforestation, mangrove harvesting, and pollution.
The celebration was however attended by representatives from MDAs like Ministry of Tourism, National Protected Area Authority, Conservation Trust Fund, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, National Mineral Agencies, civil society organisation, community animators, Island communities and other agencies/institutions like Kingho Mining, Tasso Ecotourism, DSA Development, USA, Community Foundation for Rural Development (COMFORD), Business Coalition for Island Resilience and Development (BIRD), Environment and Tourism Watch (WET) and Microfranchise Development Project.
In his introductory remark, the Executive Director, IslandAid, Mr Dura Koroma, gave a cursory background on how Island Biodiversity Day celebration came about, which he said was in 2014, at the UN General Assembly Session in Samoa, dedicated to Island states, territories, and communities, in order to escalate their vulnerabilities, and also foster collaborative partnership; catalyse effective commitment to provide innovative and proactive solutions that would enhance island resilience and environmental sustainability.
Executive Director, Mr Dura Koroma making brief remarks
Also, the chairman, Mr Harry Mustapha, in his remarks, re-echoed on the significance of the theme of this year’s celebration, which he noted to be “We are Part of the Solution for Nature”. He however implored on the Island community stakeholders, community activists/animators and state actors to foster collaborative partnership and also catalyse commitment to effectively address the Islands’ vulnerabilities, which affected their environmental health and sustainable livelihood.
The chairman, who is also a community development consultant emphasized on the need for Island community stakeholders to maintain the spirit of Islandness, and to also change the narratives of Island myth, irrespective of the level of deprivation and isolation they fraught with; and that they should consider the islands as the precious gems of a nation, and that if preserved, conserved and protected, they would be enviable attractive tourist destination sites, which could positively impact the social
Also, in representing the Island youths and local community activists, Mr Tejansie Kanu also noted the Island paradox in terms of the Islands’ potentials, viz, richness of nature and cultural diversity, and the degree of abject poverty and economic misery in the lives of the people, which he said therefore needed proactive intervention in order to remedy the inherent vulnerabilities,( ecological, social, environmental and economic) faced by the islands. Mr Tejansie Kanu also re-echoed on the activities of the mining company on Pepel Island, which also affected other sister islands, like Tasso, Kakim and other Islands along the Rokel River and Sierra Leone River Estuary. He however strongly emphasized on the mining company’s corporate social responsibility, which should not only benefit the operational areas but also the affected areas.
The Regent Chief, Pa Komrabai Kabia and other Community Stakeholders
Also, with the shift of island management to Island governance in has involved other key players within the communities; it has made other stakeholders to raise concerns about the future of the islands, in providing solutions for the conservation of nature and preservation of life, which are central to this year’s theme.
In this regard, Mrs. Fatmata Samura, an indigene of Tasso Island, also talked on the preservation of Islands’ ecosystems and habitats, which she noted should only be the responsibility of policy makers or state actors, but also stakeholders of the local communities, youths, women and community activists. She also noted that if the islands protected and preserved, they would be safe haven for tourism development that could transform their wellbeing and social lives.
Being a development optimist and community animator, she also emphasized the need to explore the Islands’ untapped potentials, which can promote ecotourism development, which would be a blend of tourism and cultural heritage promotion.
Mrs Fatmata Samura, Community Animator
Also, in creating the platform for a coordinated approach in escalating the Islands vulnerabilities, the Executive Director, Mr Dura Koroma, decided to have collaborative ties with the National Protected Area Authority (NPAA), Environmental Protection Agency and Conservation Trust Fund.
In this regard, he however informed the participants that IslandAid Sierra Leone collaborated with Conservation Trust Fund (CTF) to celebrate this year’s Island Biodiversity Day because of the common goal of shared interest in promoting biodiversity conservation and resilient islands for that would enhance environmental sustainability and tourism development.
And for the local communities to know the statutory mandate of CTF, Mr Dura Koroma gave brief synopsis of their responsibilities, which he noted, provides a fiduciary role to mobilise resources to support the activities of the NPAA, and also serves as source of sustainable financing for long term biodiversity conservation and wildlife management in Sierra Leone; and in the areas of tourism development and heritage preservation, he said, IslandAid Sierra Leone also collaborating with the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Tasso Ecotourism Project and DSA Development, USA, which invaluable support made this year’s celebration a success. He also commended DSA Development USA for their determination to change the development trajectory of Tasso Island, in the focus areas of environmental health and sustainability, alternative livelihood interventions and social infrastructure development, being a complete social facelift for tourism development.
Executive Director, Mr Dura Koroma
In addressing the issues of the Islands’ vulnerabilities in relation to this year’s theme, “We are a part of the Solution for Nature”, various presentations were made on key thematic focus areas, which geared towards providing innovative solutions and prescription for policy actions or strategies that would enhance environmental sustainability and restoration of the Islands’ degraded habitats or ecosystems.
Evidently, nature is crying against the growing risk of climate change and harsh human activities, which have led to environmental shocks and degradation of the Islands’ habitats. This therefore warrants innovation actions, in a form of collaborative partnership with catalysed commitment to restore the coast and Islands’ ecosystems; create alternative livelihood interventions that can ameliorate the ills of abject poverty and economic misery.
A Cross Section of IslandAid Sierra Leone Management Team and Representatives from MDAs
Our organisation therefore decided to celebrate this global event to demonstrate the will of Islandness, which is in support of the global movement of providing solutions that would address island vulnerabilities.
To grace the occasion key MDAs and community stakeholders provided innovation solutions for the attention of state actors and community stakeholders.
In line with this year’s theme, key MDAs, CBOs and others delivered brief presentations on specific topics that relate to nature conservation, livelihood interventions, tourism development and preservation of life.
In ensuring that the thematic topics/statement are succinct, and lucid, Mr Mohamed Margai Taylor, as instructed by the chairman, Harry Williams, humbly informed the key stakeholders/participants to be time conscious, as their statements had to be brief, concise, and to the point.
Mr Margai, also encouraged the female stakeholders, to be thorough, and brief in their presentation.
Mr Mohamed Margai Taylor
|“Innovative Climate action for|
Nature Conservation and
|Mr Joseph Tarawally|
|2||Ministry of Tourism Cultural Affairs: Promotion||and The||Sustainable Domestic Development and|
|Tourism Island||Mr Abdul Malik Kamara|
|Area||The Impact of Biodiversity loss Ecosystem/Habitat Destruction on Sustainable Livelihood.||Mr Mohamed Bangura|
|Fund||Sustainable financing for effective biodiversity conservation||Mr. Authur C. Williams|
|5||Ministry of Fisheries and||Marine Biodiversity Conservation and Island Resilience and||Mr. Amara Johnson/ Paul Jaiah|
|6||National Mineral Agency|
|Mining Policies on Coastal Management and the impact on community livelihood and|
|Mr. Sahr Koroma|
|7||DSA Development , USA||Island Tourism and Heritage Preservation and Impact on the|
Growth of local Economies
|8||Tasso Ecotourism Project||“Island Tourism Development and Environmental Health||Mr David Kargbo|
|9||Kingho Mining Company|
|The Impact of Corporate Social Responsibility on the affected areas/Islands, as against the Negative Externalities of Mining|
Activities in their communities
|Mr Paul Jaiah|
|10||Island communities||Bonthe Island|
|Ms Rosaline Augusta Ashun|
Mohamed Margai Taylor
Mr Eshaka Sesay
|11||Business Coalition for Island Resilience and|
|“Island’ Vulnerability and Innovative Action for Island Resilience and Environmental Sustainability and Ecosystem|
|Augusta Rosaline Ashun|
In his remark, the Chairman, Mr. Harry Mustapha, however escalated the importance of this year’s theme, and noted that the contributions/presentations of the participants/representatives of MDAs would provide solutions for policy actions, in line with international protocols, conventions and resolutions on nature conservation and life preservation.
In his contribution, Mr Joseph Tarawally, EPA, noted that nature conservation played a crucial role in an effort to mitigate the risk of climate change, by allowing people and wildlife to adapt to changing conditions; and he also asserted that by protecting and restoring these habitats, nature would continue to absorb excess carbon from the atmosphere. He also affirmed that with collaborative partnership, actions to climate change mitigations would be possible, in which conservation, restoration and improved land management actions would increase carbon storage or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in landscapes and wetlands across the islands and coasts. He also advanced other natural climate solutions like better forestry and farming practices.
Mr Joseph Tarawally, EPA
In his conclusion, he emphasized that restoring and protecting nature was one of the greatest strategies for tackling climate change; and also regarding the environmental challenges in the Islands, the removal of cattle from fields and letting forests grow back could also be another solution.
Also, Mr Malik Kamara, MTCA noted that the sustainable conservation of nature and preservation of life, especially the protection of the islands’ ecosystems, environment and biodiversity, would provide attractive tourists destination sites or localities or communities for ecotourism development
That notwithstanding, he however echoed about the growing risk of climate change and the adverse effect on local economies and livelihood, which subjected the local communities to the mercy of environment shocks, social and economic disparity that has led to abject poverty and economic misery.
Mr Mohamed Bangura, NPAA emphasized the fact that islands had been under the pressure of the harsh human activities, in which nature was crying occasioned by deforestation, biodiversity loss, and ecosystem destruction; and regarding the Islands’ inherent vulnerabilities, he however noted that with systematic environmental education, sensitization and awareness raising drive, their environmental assets (Mangroves vegetations, coral reefs and tropical rain forests) would be protected, preserved and developed for feasible economic benefits, especially in the area of tourism development and other related activities.
Also, in his contribution, Mr Amara Johnson (MFMR) escalated the issue of over fishing and marine biodiversity loss, which also threatened mangrove vegetations within the coastal and Island communities or areas. He also noted that stronger winds/sea waves, spreading of sea weeds and severe heat waves, could be life threatening; as that the earth would be getting warmer that affects habitation, resulting to biodiversity loss.
Ms Rosaline Augusta Ashun, (BIRD Bonthe Island) and Mr Joseph Tarawally, (EPA)
In his conclusion, he also noted that actions needed to be taken to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that caused climate change, which effects also affected water supplies, agricultural activities, plants animal and ecosystems, energy, forests, recreation and coastal areas. He also stressed the related effect on wildlife, in which endangered species would be at risk because of deforestation, forest conversion and illegal hunting. This would result to food shortages caused by unusual rainfall patterns.
On the issue of Kingho Mining’s corporate social responsibility for operational and affected sites,
Paul Jaiah reiterated the company’s commitment in restituting or compensating the affected Island communities against the inherent externalities they fraught with, which affected their development activities; and that a comprehensive developments plans had been designed or formulated in consultation with both the affected operational and target localities. He however affirmed the view that this time that any benefit due the island must fully benefit the people. And that “business as usual”, in which the funds provided not used for the intended, will be a thing of the past. Thus, he affirmed that the affected islands and Pepel Island, which is the operational site, will ensure tangible evidence of development
Mr Paul Jaiah, Community Liaison Officer, Kingho Mining Company Limited, Pepel Island
Also, as islands are the laboratory for political, technological, social, economic and cultural innovations; and the politics and poetry of places, which can be attractive tourism destination sites, Mr David Kargbo, TEP, therefore escalated TEP’s ecotourism activities, which he affirmed had created tangible impact in the lives of the Islanders, but however admonished them to conserve, protect, and preserve the Islands’ cultural heritages and environmental assets, which considered as attractive offerings or product brands for tourist demand and satisfaction.
And with plans to increase their activity portfolios, David opined that this would also have a related impact on the local economies that would also lead socio economic transformation as more activities like aquaculture, agritourism, community infrastructure development and youth/women empowerment be carried out.
The Islands along the rokel river, which are strategically located, are attracting development interventions. Apart from TEP, another organisation, DSA Development, USA had also demonstrated desire to carry out an ecotourism development initiatives on Tasso Island, which will also benefit its sister islands like Pepel, Kakim, Mayagba, Kagbalie and others.
In stepping into the shoes of Mr Ben Kanu (DSA Consult/Development) who was on unavoidable absent, Mr Umaru Jalloh highlighted the organisation’s development plans; viz, Eco village, community infrastructure development, solar energy electrification, project, low cost housing development project and Youth and women empowerment project, which he noted will commence as per projected activity plan and the effective of resources mobilisation. He however assured that Tasso Island community that hence Easy Solar Company limited had been contracted to supply the fifty four solar poles and accessories to benefit the five villages within Island, which project will be implemented in June 2021.
The Islands’ development, in terms of social, environmental and economic transformation is hugely dependent on the availability of funds. This means that adequate liquidity has to be made available to ensure the desire impact of environmental sustainability and alternative livelihood intervention for sustainable development.
Therefore, in the area of forest and land management and protection of its ecosystems and habitat, as against the growing risk of climate change and harsh human activities,
Conservation Trust Fund (CTF) was established to explore possible avenues of mobilizing funds. This was reiterated by Mr Arthur Williams, Resources Mobilisation Officer, who highlighted his organisation’s interventions, to mobilize funds, in order to support the activities of NPAA, CBOs, CSOs and others that promote conservation biodiversity, and ecosystem restoration and protection, and wildlife preservation.
In his contribution, he noted that CTF serves as a source of sustainable financing for long term biodiversity conservation and wildlife management in Sierra Leone; and since they could not directly implement project but can however mobilise resources for NPAA and CBOs/CSOs for them to implement. He also highlighted the statutory mandate of NPAA, which has the responsibility to developing policies and strategies for adapting the National Protected Areas system to the impacts of climate change; it also in charge of formulating and implementing awareness activities for forest management, and to promote sustainable land use practices;
Mr Authur C Williams, Resources Mobilisation Manager, Conservation Trust Fund, CTF
and on the other hand, CTF’S operations are notably be financed by revenue generated from carbon trading. In his concluding statement, Mr. Williams however commended IslandAid Sierra Leone for their novel initiative in promoting the islands’ interests.
Mr Mohamed Margai Taylor, Island Coordinating Officer, Pepel Island
Again, the Islands and coastal areas are also affected by mining activities within their localities, as In the case Of Pepel Island Tasso Island and others.
In his contribution, Mr Sahr Koroma, Mines Supervisor, NMA, reiterated that his organisation was mindful of the externalities of mining activities, and the effects on the people. He however assured the target communities that policies and systems had been put in place to for the communities to be compensated, as a corporate social responsibility. In providing a comprehensive detail of NMAs operational mandate, Mr. Sahr Koroma explained about the National Mineral Policy , which is geared towards bringing effective, transparency, better regulation and enforcement, balanced social and economic growth as well as sustainable mining practices.
In her contribution, Ms Rosaline Augusta Ashun advanced his presentation on Innovative climate action, ecosystem restoration, to promote environmental sustainability and livelihood interventions. She highlighted issues relating to pollution, overfishing, mangrove vegetation harvesting, waste disposal management, environmental health, climate mitigations and adaptations, which actions of environmental management and ecosystem restoration, expected to be escalated with synergetic relationship with community stakeholders, to halt biodiversity loss, and protection
She also noted that regarding the vulnerabilities of the coasts and the Islands, compounded by the harsh human activities, it will result to environmental disasters, habitat destruction, pressure on nature that would lead to negative spill-over effect on local economies. She strongly stressed that islands and coasts needed to be preserved and conserved; also protected, and the other islands should replicate Bonthe’s model of Island resilience and environmental sustainability.
Ms Rosaline Augusta Ashun, Head of Programme, BIRD
Side Attractions and Cultural Performance
The celebration was also climaxed by cultural performance, being a display of the Island’s traditional and cultural identity and talents by the Island Women. This showcased the island’s cultural diversity, which can an offering or product brand for tourist satisfaction. Mr Malik Kamara, Tourism Officer from the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, expressed a surge of appreciation for the display of the Island’s cultural talents
Island Women in cultural display and exchange
Interventions and Island Development Agenda
Our organisation’s vision is to promote balanced development in the focus areas of environmental health, climate action, community ecotourism development and women and youth empowerment. These issues were however escalated at the celebration in order to solicit funding support and necessary actions.
This is line with the implementation strategies of international protocols and conventions, as prescribed in our strategic plan, which activities include:
- Community outreach and engagement
- Environmental education, using the social paradigm
- Global events
- Ecosystem restoration ( mangroves and tropical forests management)
- Project implementation on the request for project proposal
Challenges and constraints
This year’s celebration was not without challenges and constraints but the burden of its activity outlay was however cushioned by funds received from DSA Consult, DSA Development, and Zadiak Consult (IslandAid Sister Organisation).
The other inherent challenge was environmental health and/or depletion of the Island’s habitat, especially those at the coastal areas. After the event, representatives from the MDAs were taken on a work tour to the coastal and vulnerable areas within the islands, as the outcome of the visit, was nothing to write home about.
Environmental health challenges
He also noted that our organisation, IslandAid Sierra Leone, which was established in 2010 but registered with Freetown City Council 2014, have never received any funding support project implementation, from any donor agencies or development partners.
World Environmental Day
In continuing the campaign for environmental sustainability and innovative climate action, Mr Mohamed Margai however informed the Islanders and community stakeholders for the World Environment Day Celebration, on Saturday, 5th June 2021 at Mattru Jong, Bonthe District, which terms reads as “Ecosystem Restoration”
Certification of recognition
In recognizing the invaluable contributions made by certain members and stakeholders within the Islands and MDAs, in the areas of environmental health, biodiversity protection, climate action and alternative livelihood interventions, it was noted that only deserving people would de awarded certificates in the islands including MDAs
The Chief, Pa Alimamy awarded certificate
The celebration was well attended by community stakeholders and MDAs. It really created the expected impact, as the issues affecting the Islands were escalated for the attention of state actors and community stakeholders, to promote Island resilience and environmental sustainability.
And from the communities’ feedbacks based on the issues escalated, it was however recommended that every effort be explored for projects on alternative livelihood interventions, environmental health, climate actions , ecosystem restoration and youth and women training be implemented in order to ease the pressure on nature and the environmental assets, specially the mangrove vegetations.
In his concluding remarks, Mr Dura Koroma, Executive Director, affirmed that with the support from government through Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Protected Area Authority (NPAA), Conservation Trust Fund, (CTF) and UNDP, International Partners like West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) under the CEPF Project, USAID, and Global Island Partnership, the overall issues affecting its smooth running will be addressed with effective collaboration and partnership for a common goal and shared interest that can change the narratives of island myth.
To this end, the organisation’s general membership and local communities however implored on donor partners and development agencies, to support IslandAid’s novel initiatives, that would enhance balanced development, promote Island resilience, innovative climate action and environmental sustainability.
Support IslandAid Sierra Leone today, to conserve nature and preserve life because nature is crying against the growing risk of climate change and harsh human activities.