Islands are the bell-weathers for international environmental policies, which effective ecosystem management can promote island resilience and environmental sustainability.
Evidently, the Islands are neglected, abandoned, deprived and isolated; left at the mercy of environmental, social, ecological and economic vulnerability; and their sustainable resilience and natural richness in biodiversity and cultural diversity can be drivers for the growth potential of the tourism industry; but are however faced with the growing risk of climate change, and environmental threat, occasioned by deforestation, pollution, degradation and depletion, harvesting of the mangrove vegetations, overfishing, farming, and extinction of species.
Background and International Conventions on ecosystem restoration
Nature is crying for ecosystem restoration and biodiversity protection. Therefore, in promoting environmental sustainability, our organisation decided to join the global movement to celebrate the World Environment Day on 5th June 2021 at Mattru Jong Bonthe District, which geared towards promoting effective island environmental management, island resilience, biodiversity protection and sustainable livelihood and ecosystem restoration as against the growing risk of climate change, sea level rise, habitat loss/destruction, deforestation, mangrove harvesting, pollution, and deprivation from sustainable livelihood/survival.
A cross section of participants on the occasion of World Environment Day Celebration
The World Environment Day is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging world-wide awareness and action for the environment. It is a vital platform for promoting progress on the environmental dimensions of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Also, the Celebration also marks the formal launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, which aim is to preserve nature and protect life; and also raise awareness of the need to preserve and enhance the environment with innovation solutions.
The celebration escalated issues to assist the recovery of the Islands’ ecosystems that had been degraded or depleted, and to also conserve the ecosystems that are still intact. The event facilitated the planting of economic trees so that nature can recover on its own, to adapt to a changing climate. Also a community engagement was held in which key focus areas of environmental sustainability, Sand mining, mangrove harvesting and ecosystem restoration were escalated.
In promoting island ecosystem restoration and environmental sustainability, our organisation therefore replicates policies, conventions and resolutions in line with the implementation strategies of UN Agenda 21 on sustainable island development, Global Island Partnership Initiative, Barbados Programme of Action (1994), Mauritius Strategy Initiative (2005), Samoa pathway (2014) and the Blue Growth Initiative (2013).
Also, to restore the Islands’ ecosystems, our organisation also escalates biodiversity protection in line with the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, including keys issues of (Aichi Biodiversity Targets).
Therefore, for this year’s celebration, the following focus areas were escalated for the attention of state actors, community stakeholders and community animators and civil society organisations, to promote environmental sustainability and assured livelihood. These are:
- Biodiversity loss and its mainstreaming across island communities within the five (5) river locations
- Reducing the direct pressures on the islands’ environmental assets to promote its sustainable use
- Improving the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity through the social paradigm approach
- Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building
The World Environment Day was celebrated with the involvement and participation of key stakeholders within Bonthe District, specifically Mattru Jong, who however demonstrated the spirit of Islandness in order to conserve nature and preserve life, and also to restore the earth’s degraded habitats and unprotected ecosystems.
Community Stakeholders including Town Chief
Ministry of Agriculture
Ministry of Health
Inter- Religious Council
Civil Society Organisations
Island Communities (Bonthe, Tasso, Tiwai Turtle and others
IslandAid Sierra Leone
World Environment Celebration and Ecosystem Restoration
This year’s celebration, which theme being “Ecosystem Restoration” attracted inhabitants at Mattru Jong, Bonthe district, which made up of varied communities. The issues on ecosystem restoration and biodiversity protection, environmental sustainability were exhaustively articulated with strong messages to the local communities, including stakeholders, NGOs, youths, women, community animators and civil society organisations.
In creating the awareness for ecosystem restoration, key community stakeholders and institutions made concept presentations on various topics that addressed environmental and ecological sustainability.
The prescriptions from the presentations and the related interactive discussions and inputs of participants provided innovative solutions that will enhance island resilience and ecosystem restoration.
Other activities escalated being systematic community engagement; and establishment of schools environmental clubs.
Key stakeholders/Focal Persons
Executive Director, IslandAid Sierra Leone
District Forestry Officer, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF)
Rosaline Augusta Ashun
Community Coordinating Officer- Bonthe
Madam Edna Tucker
Town Chief, Mattru Jong
M &E Officer, MAF
District Supervisor, Development Initiative Programme,
Alhaji Alhassan Kamara/Rev. Isaac I Lansana
Inter-Religious Council (IRC)
Philip Orlando Tucker
Rep: Mattru Jong SL Police
Crop Protection Officer, MAF
Tiwai, Turtle, Bonthe, Tasso, and Pepel
In his remark, the Chairman Francis Lincoln gave a brief remark on the purpose of this global event, which he said had to be celebrated in an all inclusive manner that involved everybody; and that with IslandAid’s novel initiatives, he asserted that the celebration would prescribe innovative actions to enhance and promote island resilience, environmental sustainability and ecosystem restoration. He informed participants to make meaningful contributions, as the event/ celebration would be interactive with the spirit of islandness for the interest of all.
Mr Francis Lincoln, District Forestry Officer, MAF, Mattru Jong, Bonthe District
Also, in his contribution, Mr Dura Koroma, Executive Director, IslandAid Sierra Leone, gave a cursory statement on the purpose of the event. He reiterated that nature was crying against the risk of climate change and harsh human activities; and which occasioned to habitat destruction and degradation, pollution, deforestation , and mangrove harvesting; and that to promote environmental and ecological sustainability, the earth’s/Islands ‘damaged ecosystems have to be restored.
Mr Sheku Jalloh, M&E Officer, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry emphasized on the reduction of the yield component of food crops based on the harsh human activities on the land, an d in which the forest lands longer fallowing due to the cutting down of trees; and that farmers should minimise the cultivation of upland forest and concentrated on IVS cultivation
Mr Sheku Jalloh, M&E Officer, MAF
In his contribution, Mr Alhaji Alhassan Kamara, Inter-Religious Council, affirmed that Sierra Leone was blessed with the gift of nature/natural resources, and which needed to be managed, protected, preserved and conserved for the benefit of both current and future generations.
Mr Alhaji Alhassan Kamara, Inter-Religious Council,
He also reiterated that to enhance environmental sustainability, the resources had to be used wisely for the general good of all; and that the outcome of the celebration, in terms of the solutions provided for ecosystem restoration and forest management, should be effectively applied or used to enhance sustainable management of resources.
Ms Rosaline Augusta Ashun, District Environmental Representative and Community Coordinating Officer
Also, Ms Rosaline Augusta Ashun, District Environmental Representative and Community Coordinating Officer, re-echoed on the theme for this year’s celebration, which she said must be effectively escalated to ensure the forests’ ecosystems restored through planting of trees along the riverside, houses, offices and communities in order to minimise environmental disaster and other related shocks. She also noted that the wetland had to be managed, protected and preserved, including the animals that lived in the aquatic as well.
Mr Francis T Sandi, District Supervisor, Development Initiative Programme ( DIP), noted that innovative solutions enhanced effective ecosystem restoration; created the desired impact, which could be made possible by the effective enforcement of the environmental laws and statutory regulations for people would that go against the laws, especially in the areas of mangrove harvesting, deforestation, overfishing.
Mr Francis T Sandi, District Supervisor, Development Initiative Programme (DIP)
This was re-echoed by Mr Philip Orlando Tucker, Mattru Long Police, who also affirmed that if the environmental assets were to be preserved and conserved, the prescribed statutory laws and regulations had to be effective, with stringent measures put in place against law-breakers
And in his contribution, Mr Abdulai Libay reiterated that the harsh human activities such as sand mining, mining and power saw operation along the sea side also contributed to environmental disasters or hazards;
Mr Abdulai Libay, Crop Protection Officer, MAF, Mattru Jong Bonthe District
and that the running down of mining waste water into the river had caused fish migration; destroyed fingerlings fish in the water; and also the cutting down of the trees along the sea side destroyed fish harboring in laying egg was also a case in point.
The environmental disaster as a result of sand mining, escalated by Mr Abdulai Libay
In providing remedial actions for effective ecosystem restoration, for both forest and land management, Madam Edna Tucker, Town Chief, also re-echoed the human harsh activities, viz, sand mining, deforestation, pollution and mangrove harvesting, which she noted had had adverse effect on the environment and sustainable livelihood of people in these vulnerable communities, where the environmental laws and regulations also not respected or adhered to or followed.
Madam Edna Tucker, Town Chief
Community Participation and Ecosystem Restoration action
From the presentations made by various stakeholders and the related issues escalated, the following actions were advanced for assured ecosystem restoration and environmental sustainability.
- Schools Environmental clubs
- Community engagement and environmental education
- Alternative livelihood interventions
- Distribution of Environmental education Messages through brochures
Regarding the above prescriptions, It was therefore concluded by Mr Dura Koroma, Executive Director that effective ecosystem restoration should be a blend of both community-based and co-management regimes with community based organisations, including civil society organisation, professionals and community animators, to improve local livelihoods and conserve forests, by using a practice-based approach that links local people to effective forest management and preservation.
Mr Dura Koroma, Executive Director, IslandAid Sierra Leone
He also noted that with systematic community engagement, use should be made of the social paradigm approach, in the focus areas of forest and land management policies, legislation and regulations, to effectively provide workable practices that would enhance ecosystem restoration.
Collaboration and Community partnership
In promoting the interest of the twenty- two islands in the country, which are stratified into five river locations, we then decided to establish collaborative partnership with MDAs and international development agencies like Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Protected Area Authority (NPAA), Ministries of Agriculture, Fisheries and Marine Resources, Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Sierra Leone Conservation Society, Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, National Museum, Monument and Relics Commission; international organisations like United Nations Development Programme, USAID, and Global Island Partnership, Tasso Ecotourism Project, DSA Development Sierra Leone and Island Communities. This is to promote Island resilience, environmental sustainability and ecosystem restoration, as against the harvesting of mangroves and deforestation of the tropical forests, for wood and coal burning for the sustenance of their economic livelihood; and also the depletion and degradation of the Islands ‘habitats and ecosystems.
Evidently, Mr Dura Koroma, Executive Director noted that his organisation was financially unhealthy to meet emerging activity outlays especially that related to the celebration of the event. This was however compounded by outbreak of the global pandemic, COVID 19, which halted most economic activities, worldwide, with adverse effects on developing countries like Sierra Leone.
That notwithstanding, and to grace this event/celebration, our organisation received funds from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), DSA Development, Sierra Leone and own contribution including community support to cover or meet the estimated activity outlays.
Certification to Stakeholders
In recognizing the immense contributions and support of certain stakeholders to community development and resilience; climate action and land and forest management, the director, through the chairman, Board decided to give certificates to community stakeholders that had impacted on environmental sustainability. A total of twenty five (25) Stakeholders in Bonthe/Mattru Jong, Tiwai, Turtle, Pepel, Tasso and Western Area were awarded certificates of recognition
Certificates awarded to Mr Francis Lincoln, District Forestry Officer, MAF and others
Based on the contributions of the key stakeholders, viz, presentation and feedback reactions from participants, and in order to enhance overall impact of ecosystem restoration and environmental sustainability, there should be laid down community guidelines and regulations on forest and land management in conformity with national policies and statutory regulations of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Protected Area Authority (NPAA).
This will lead to the formulation of community environment management plans that will escalate issues on coastal island management, biodiversity protection, wildlife and wetland conservation, sustainable livelihood, climate change and island vulnerabilities; and innovative interventions to conserve nature and preserve life, to enhance ecosystem restoration;
In conclusion, Rev. Isaac Lansana asserted that the outcome of the celebrations had provided innovative solutions and proactive local community leadership for ecosystem restoration and nature conservation; and that state actors, island communities, civil society organisations, and other key stakeholders, would foster collaborative partnership to catalyse commitment to enhance ecosystem restoration, environmental sustainability and island resilience.
IslandAid Sierra Leone