TASSO ISLAND HISTORIC HERITAGE PRESERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT PROJECT
We write with reference to the above subject in respect of the meeting between Consult DSA and community at Tasso Island. This is to express the community’s willingness, commitment and surge of appreciation for the Consult DSA’s development agenda in preserving the island’s colonial heritages.
The preservation of colonial heritages has awakened a conscious spirit of historic exploration; an inspiration your organisation, Consult DSA is piloting, to dig out the untold stories or narratives of the relics of slavery; and also to explore and search out for the hidden treasure of African heritages that can exhibit the beauty of Africa as the paradise of innovation with rich cultural diversity and undiscovered colonial heritages, which can however be found in Tasso and Bunce islands that are located along the coastal areas of the Sierra Leone River Estuary.
Tasso and Bunce are sister Islands with identical histories but sparsely told, especially in the case of Tasso Island, which also was a transit depot for slaves captured ready to be conveyed to American, Europe and the Caribbean. Although Bunce Island was seen as the long term British stronghold but Tasso Island had been its principal plantation and factory due to its greater size and opportunities for producing agricultural and other produce.
The British began to visit the Sierra Leone River Estuary from 1500 onwards on a regular basis, including voyages by John Hawkins and Thomas Hampton in October 1562 and Sir Francis Drake in 1666. From a search of the literature, the first direct reference to Tasso Island appeared in 1635 as the ‘ilha de taco (Carvalho). Early relationships between the British and local rulers appeared to have been fractious and a trader noted in 1659 that the English had returned to Tasso, while a Dutch account, written in 1662, refers to the ‘English on Tasso’ and the fact that they had had a quarrel with the King of Carecole and abandoned the Island.
The Royal African Company of England was established in 1660 by the Duke of York (Later King James ll) and the first record of permanent settlement appeared in the companies records when its London Agents instructed its ships captains to establish ‘factories’ on Sherbro (York) and Tasso Islands. These ‘factories’ were semi-fortified compounds designed to hold trading goods until the ‘trade winds’ were blowing in a favourable direction for sailing ships to travel to and from England.
Early settlement of Sherbro, York, Banana, Tasso and Bunce Islands was undertaken in negotiation with the resident kings and their chiefs (in the case of Tasso, the Bulloms from the Lungi peninsula) and throughout the next two centuries these agreements were critical, guaranteeing use of the land and the payment of rent to the local chief.
TASSO ISLAND PARADOX
Tasso Island is the largest island along the Sierra Leone River Estuary, of the Rokel and Bangasoka rivers with a population of over five thousand inhabitants. It has unique ecosystems with rich natural values and cultural diversity; but isolated, deprived and abandoned; left at the mercy of economic misery and abject poverty.
Tasso Island used to be the initial depot, slave fortresses but later relocated to Bunce Island. It can be affirmed that not much importance attached to her, as its rich colonial history and legacy not narrated or made known to attract exploration and tourism attractions.
THE SEARCH FOR THE UNTOLD STORY
Bunce Island and Tasso Island are a symbol of a coin, which have same historic value. This can literarily be deduced as Bunce being the tail and Tasso the head on the same coin. This means that their unique colonial history should be narrated with equal importance; but evidently, not much historic premium on Tasso Island irrespective of her colonial heritages and legacies.
Bunce Island and its colonial heritages
IslandAid Sierra Leone, being a community based organisation, operating in Tasso Island, has been escalating campaigns for island resilience, climate action, environmental health, sustainable livelihood and preservation of colonial heritages for tourism development in the twenty two identified islands countrywide.
This island’s nightmare can however be transformed to a dream of windows of opportunities and investment portfolios, and which ship of development expected to be steered by Consult DSA, a multinational consortium of development oriented expertise, especially in heritage preservation and innovative island tourism development
ISLAND COLONIAL HERITAGE PRESERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT
Tasso Island, though with its historic colonial heritages, rich cultural diversity and unique landscape yet long forgotten; but thank God to IslandAid Sierra Leone for its proactive initiatives in escalating island colonial heritage preservation and Island tourism development that led to the promotion of Island ecotourism development, environmental management and heritage preservation.
Consult DSA Project team on the high table, flanked by the Tasso Island Community members
This is usually escalated by undertaking or engaging in various annual activities:
- Island cultural and relics/monument heritage preservation: 18th April
- Awareness on environmental management and biodiversity protection: Island Biodiversity Day on 22nd May
- Island Development Conference and World Tourism Day Celebration: 25th-27th September
- Island cultural and social mix fiesta: 20th-22nd December
Mr Francis Momoh, Research Officer, Monument and Relics Commission making a point on the importance of the preservation of Tasso Island colonial heritages
It is expected that the island’s development agenda will be expanded and diversified with varied focus areas of interventions that can give the island a facelift of social transformation and economic development.
The proposed development project piloted and escalated by Consult Delve Solve Achieve (DSA) can be another support to change the Island’s development aspirations and trajectory for a better tomorrow through the following earmarked areas of interventions as prescribed in their project concept document:
- To preserve of castles and other relics, memoriam to honour the history of Tasso island
- To build museum and information centre, indoor and outdoor restaurant, DNA Testing and information about the various tribes on the island,
- To also build memorial wall that celebrates descendants of sierra Leone in the Diaspora
- Organise yearly homing coming celebrations for descendants, tour guides to the island at close proximity
- Ferry to the islands and participation with community based organisations and universities for anthropological exploration of the island
It is therefore of the pious hope that Tasso Island, with the intervention of Consult DSA, will be the laboratory for technological, political cultural, social and political innovations for heritage preservation, tourism development; and social change and community transformation
The development of Tasso Island should not be the concern of one person or a certain group of persons but it is the interest of varied groups of persons/organisations with impact oriented development portfolios that can change the lives of the people, to enhance economic upliftment and infrastructure development.
To this backdrop, the Tasso island community through IslandAid Sierra Leone has established collaborative partnership with Ministry of Tourism, Monument and Relics Commission, National Protected Authority, Environmental Protected Agency, Planning Green Futures, UK, Sierra Leone Conservation Society, Tourism is Life, Business Coalition for Island Resilience and Development, Zadiak Consult, Community Foundation for Rural Development (COMFORD) and Tasso Island Ecotourism Project.
It is therefore also expected that Consult DSA will effectively collaborate with the Island’s community based organisations to promote mutual Interest of common goals that can benefit the community
ISLANDAID AND TASSO ISLAND DEVELOPMENT AGENDA
IslandAid Sierra Leone promotes Island conservation biodiversity, heritage preservation, sustainable livelihood and tourism development. It is promoting twenty two (22) islands countrywide; and Tasso Island is one of its operational areas.
And given that Consult DSA is escalating a development project on Tasso Island; and the following are its needs:
- Improved Medical health centre
- Community hall centre and public toilets
- Protected wells and safe drinking water
- Expansion of schools to meet the demand of pupils
- Environmental health and sanitation
- Local appropriate technologies and innovations
- Heritage preservation and Cultural exchange
- Solar energy
- Island cultural mix fiesta
The Tasso Island community under the custodianship of the Chief, Pa Alimamy embraced and appreciated Consult DSA development portfolios. And the key community stakeholders in the various towns within the Island;, viz, Oku, Tasso, Samgblima, Allen and Kissi also registered unflinching support for the project; and that the demands, in terms of the acreage of land required for the infrastructure development and other related facilitates will be fully provided in line with statutory procedures and regulations.
As a dream come true, the Tasso Island community had expressed eagerness for the project to commence its varied development activities or focus areas of interventions in the soonest possible time, which is hoped would create jobs opportunities for the people, promote infrastructure development, environmental health, island resilience and tourism attraction
THE ISLANDERS’ EXPECTATIONS
The Island community’s expectations are insatiable, considering the social and economic state they had long subjected to; compounded by environmental shocks and growing risk of climate change
The Tasso Island Community including the key stakeholders
Evidently, the islanders need alternative livelihood and/or improvement/diversification of their predominant economic activity, fishing in a sustainable way, especially in promoting community based tourism development and heritage preservation.
They are also devoid of the basic social amenities and support for agricultural development. These development schemes will however provide inputs for the community tourism development and heritage preservation, geared towards giving Tasso Island a new facelift of economic development and social transformation.
To facilitate the development process in the island, there shall be defined terms of mutual understanding that bind the parties in question, as a legal undertaking to implement the development project.
The parties to be involved for any contractual agreement between the Tasso Island community and Consult DSA are Tasso Island Community Trust, (the Island’s development and management Committee), Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, and Resident Community Based Organisation, being an interface and community liaison
It is therefore expected that Consult DSA will work with the key stakeholders as mentioned above to ensure the project is protected and Tasso island community benefits.
To achieve the desire goals, the community will fully participate in the project’s implementation process, especially in the provision of local materials and labour manpower. It is the intension of the Islanders to change the inherent myth of island pessimism, being a negative social norm that derails development.
The youths and women in various towns within the Island have also registered support for Consult DSA development project, to be implemented on the island.
It is expected that Consult DSA’s development initiatives and preservation of colonial heritages on the island, will be an on- going concern that will be sustainable and impact oriented. Thus, it will have a life changing impact in the lives of the Islands.
The Tasso island community and Consult DSA have unanimously expressed commitment in adhering to every established terms of mutual interest and common goal that would give the island a new narrative of colonial history and cultural heritages and community development
In this regard, It is of the pious hope that the island community will do everything possible to ensure that the development agenda piloted by Consult DSA is fully implemented