ISLAND INNOVATIVE CLIMATE ACTION AND CULTURAL MIX FIESTA ON 20TH-22ND DECEMBER 2019 AT TASSO ISLAND

ISLAND INNOVATIVE CLIMATE ACTION AND CULTURAL MIX FIESTA ON 20TH-22ND DECEMBER 2019 AT TASSO ISLAND

The islands, even though are endowed with the richness of nature but fraught with acute vulnerabilities that have led to environmental disasters and risks of climate change. This therefore spurred or triggered our organisation, IslandAid Sierra Leone to organize an Island innovative climate Action, in the form of environmental education against the growing risk of climate change; and to provide innovative mitigations and adaptation approaches to at least address this global threat/crisis. The theme for the environmental education being, “Island

Vulnerability and Innovative Action against the Growing Risk of Climate Change”

 TEP Boat ( “Gladi Gladi”) ferrying to Tasso Island for the Climate action Island cultural Fiesta This year’s event was a mix of environment education on climate action, community engagement on Island resilience, sustainable alternative livelihood, cultural and social exchange in the form of cultural cohesions, dance and songs; island run and boat race that echoed the message of Island resilience, environmental protection and cultural innovations for island community based tourism, development and sustainability.

It was a three day event; slated for the 20th-22nd December 2019 on Tasso Island. This attracted representatives from the twenty two island communities in the country, line MDAs, social and environmental activists; and was climaxed by varied activities; viz, environmental education for climate action, island run, boat race and cultural mix. This provided a new brand of tourism product that can attract both domestic and international tourists.

Thus, the islands have been considered as the laboratory for technological, political, social and economic innovations for tourism development. And being the treasure trovel for biodiversity; and drivers for sustainable tourism development, they are therefore to be preserved, conserved and protected against the growing risk of climate change and environmental disasters and harsh human activities.

This year’s event, “Island Innovative Climate Action and Cultural Mix Fiesta 2019” with the themes, “Innovative Climate Action for Island Resilience” and the  slogan, “Come for the Run; stay for the Fun” was to escalate islands’ vulnerabilities and climate actions for environmental sustainability.

The participating islands in this year’s event, specifically environmental literacy/education, island run/marathon and boat race, were stratified into five (5) river locations; viz, Rokel river, Bangasoka river, Atlantic Ocean, Great Scarcies ad Sewa/Moa rivers with distinct environmental awareness messages inscribed on their T-shirts. A total of thirty (35) participants took part in the two events; twenty (20) in the Island Run; and Fifteen (15) in the boat race.

As a community driven initiative that needed the effective collaboration of key stakeholders, the section chief of Tasso Island, Pa Alimamy Kanu however commended IslandAid Sierra Leone and all those that participated in the programme, which outcome had instilled in them the culture of environmental health and sustainability that geared towards preserving and conserving the islands’ ecosystems against the threat of climate change. He however admonished his fellow islanders to fully adhere to or respect the innovative prescriptions to climate action that could be practical mitigation recipes.

In his conclusion, he reiterated that Tasso Island and others that had economic and social values should be seen as peculiar tourists’ destination sites with unique natural and cultural potentials that needed to be marketed for international demand. 

ISLANDAID SIERRA LEONE AND ITS OPERATIONAL MANDATE

IslandAid Sierra Leone is a community based organisation that promotes coast and Island conservation biodiversity, sustainable livelihood and community based tourism development. It has been in existence since 2010 but became effective operational in 2014. It focus areas of intervention include environment education, community mobilisation for island resilience and environmental sustainability and innovative climate action.

our organisation is promoting the interest of twenty two (22) islands in the country. These Islands are stratified into five river locations; viz, Rokel river, Bangasoka river, Atlantic ocean, Great Scarcies and Moa/Sewa rivers; and the core objective is to enhance island resilience against climate change; geared towards preserving island identity, as the new product offering ecotourism development.

The thrust of our organisation’s strategic objectives is to enhance island resilience that promotes innovative climate action, conservation biodiversity, sustainable livelihood and tourism development. This can be achieved by:

  • Fostering collaborative community partnership;
  • Catalyzing commitment with government, through the line MDAs ( Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, National Tourist Board and Monument and Relics Commission), local communities, development partners, civil society groups and other stakeholders
  • Promoting environmental health and sanitation; and island cultural heritage
  • Promoting island franchise development, an alternative livelihood scheme, to narrow the wide gap of social and economic disparity
  • Promote balanced development initiatives
  • Advocacy for Island youth and women empowerment
  • Sensitisation and community engagements through workshops, conferences, training, seminars and project implementation

PARTICIPATION AND COLLABORATION

The innovative climate action campaign for environmental sustainability and island resilience for community based tourism development, is a global concern, which must be escalated by varied voices, to provide innovative and proactive solutions. And our organisation, IslandAid Sierra Leone in collaboration with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, National Tourist Board (NTB), Freetown City Council, Women’s Network for Environmental Sustainability (WoNES), United Nations Development Programme/Environment

Cluster, Business Coalition for Island Resilience and Development (BIRD-SL), and island community stakeholders, had joined the global bandwagon of climate action, by creating the awareness against the growing risk of climate change, especially in island habitats/ecosystems that are prone to environmental extinction.

Other participants included varied cultural and social groups that used the occasion to escalate island vulnerabilities; and also to promote island cultural talents and tourism potentials.

No Participants 
1Island communities ( 22 Islands):

•      Rokel river(8)

•      Bangasoka river (6)

•      Atlantic ocean (2)

•      Great scarcies (2)

•      Sewa/Moa rivers (4)

2Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
3Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs (MTCA)
4Freetown City Council (FCC)
5National Tourist Board (NTB)
6Women’s Network for Environmental Sustainability (WoNES)
7Business Coalition for Island Resilience and Development, BIRD-SL
8Community Foundation for Rural Development (COMFORD)
9Tasso Island Ecotourism Project (TEP)
10CARITAS Freetown

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ON CLIMATE ACTION AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Community engagement on climate action has been a tangible awareness drive or campaign in enhancing environmental sustainability, island resilience and sustainable tourism development. Our organisation, IslandAid Sierra Leone, which core objective being the promotion of coast and island biodiversity conservation against environmental disasters and harsh human activities (being environmental variables for the inherent risk of climate change), therefore decided to embark on innovative climate action campaign on the islands, to create the awareness; and provide innovative solutions for environmental health, habitat preservation and management of environmental assets ( mangroves, coral reefs and tropical rain forests).

Mr Mohamed Taylor Margai, Island Zonal Coordinator, Pepel Island

In catalyzing commitment for innovative action that could ensure the attainment of the sustainable development goals target on climate change mitigations and adaptations, Mr Mohamed Taylor Margai, Community liaison officer, IslandAid Sierra Leone, Pepel Island, emphasized on the need for stakeholders’ collaborative partnership, which action could result to the formulation of innovative policy actions for environmental sustainability and island resilience. He also reiterated the need for systematic environmental education on climate action and sustainable alternative livelihood.

Also, Mr. Harry Sheriff Mustapha, Island Development Consultant, re-affirmed islandAid’s commitment in addressing the inherent vulnerabilities such as (social, economic, ecological and

IslandAid Sierra Leone Officials and a cross section of key stakeholders of the Island Communities

environmental) fraught by the island communities, which needed innovative solutions. He also talked on the growing risk of climate change, which he attributed to the harsh human activities, sea level rise, biodiversity loss, deforestation, habitat destruction, pollution, overfishing and mangrove harvesting.

In his contribution, Mr. Dura Koroma, Executive Director, IslandAid Sierra Leone made a cursory remark on his organisation’s activities, which geared towards conserving nature and preserving life, especially the protection of the islands’ ecosystems, environmental assets and biodiversity. He however escalated the emerging effects of climate change and environment shocks, which had affected the sustainable livelihood of the island communities. He also reiterated on the inherent social and economic disparity in the Islands that led to economic misery and poverty. In his conclusion, he noted that there was the need to develop domestic tourism within a healthy environment, which economic value will narrow the social disparity, by implementing models like balanced development Initiatives (BDI) and Sustainable Tourism Eliminating Poverty (STEP) Initiatives, being solutions to poverty.

He also noted that innovative climate action must be a global voice to enhance island resilience, environmental sustainability and tourism development, which must be done in line with international policies and implementation strategies; viz, UN Agenda 21, Island Eco-concept, Mauritius strategy Initiatives, Barbados Programme of Action, and Blue and Green Economies.

The Islands, being the most vulnerable communities, he however noted that climate action on the island should be of total commitment, to create the impact of island resilience against emerging environmental shocks. Also, he noted the challenges and constraint faced by IslandAid Sierra Leone, which needed tangible collaborative partnership to cushion its activities outlays and other related development portfolios/pipelines

Also, Mr Alex Kanneh of the National Tourist Board talked cogently on resilient islands, as islands being the new world for sustainable tourism development. He however reiterated that for domestic tourism to develop, the islands have to be conserved, protected and preserved. Thus, their environment and cultural assets have to have island identity, which can be marketed to attract tourists. He also noted that for such to be achieved, there should be proper planning, prescribed development and marketing strategies that should match with tourists’ demand, which would also have a related impact on the island communities and economy as a whole.

He also commended IslandAid Sierra Leone for their effort in promoting Island resilience; and also creating the voice for climate action for environmental sustainability

In his contribution, Mr Karim Turay, Councilor, Freetown City Council, (in the office of Environment and Sanitation) talked on the challenges of Island environmental health and waste disposal management. He however noted that even though proper structures were not yet put in place for the Islands’ environmental management but the island communities should ensure that their environments sanitized or cleaned, especially when they happened to be attractive tourists’ destination sites. He also admonished the islanders to ensure that their animals (cows, goats and sheep) be confined to a secluded location for domestication rather than left them to wander around, which made the environmental unclean and unhealthy with solid wastes.

Mr Allieu Karim Turay, Councilor, Environment and Sanitation, Freetown City Council

In addressing the problem of Islands’ waste management, pollution and threat to the environment, Mr. Karim Turay emphasized the problem of islands’ vulnerabilities, occasioned by human activities; viz, the uncontrollable level of pollution and wastage disposal;  which effects being harmful to human health and even the environment; and that his organisation had put in place effective monitoring system to address the challenges of environmental and waste disposal management; but cautioned the islanders of the bye laws, which they must respect to the fullest or be slammed with the axe of the law with punitive measures instituted.

Domestic or island tourism development has been IslandAid’s dream, which the Ministry of Tourism and cultural Affairs; and other stakeholders the tourism sector are promoting.

To actualize such a novel initiatives, the Tasso Ecotourism Project (TEP) had taken the challenge by engaging in ecotourism development on Tasso Island, which employed over twenty islanders with varied skills and expertise of local appropriate technologies.

Mr Peter Jon Nelson, Chairman, Gladi Gladi Charitable Trust and Director, Tasso Ecotourism Project, TEP)

In his contribution, Mr Peter Jon Nelson, Director cum Chairman, Tasso Ecotourism Project and Gladi Gladi Charitable Trust, UK, respectively, noted the potentials in island tourism development, which economic value could stimulate and accelerate economic growth; and also impact local economies. He however implored on the government through the line MDAs to create the conducive environment that could attract viable investment pipelines in island tourism/ ecotourism development; which windows of opportunities could transform the social and economic lives of the local communities

He also noted that domestic or island tourism could however be a marketable offering or product brand if the environment seemed healthy. He also commended IslandAid Sierra Leone for organising this event that brought together the islanders from the five river locations to discuss the environmental threat in the islands; and to also proffer innovation solutions against the growing risk of climate change; which event was climaxed with the exhibition of island cultural talents, island run/marathon and boat race

Sequel to Peter Nelson’s contribution, Mr. Abdul Malik Kamara on behalf of the Honourable Minister, Dr Memunatu Pratt, Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, talked on Tourism and Culture, as the congenial twins that stimulate sustainable economic growth and development. He noted that with catalysed commitment and collaborative partnership with the local communities, community based or domestic tourism development would be a reality. Tourism is a gloss to culture, which offered the full tourism product brand for tourists

He reiterated that islands are drivers for sustainable tourism development; and would provide an environment of islandness with unique natural habitats and cultural heritages to attract tourists.

He also commended IslandAid Sierra Leone for its contribution in island tourism development; which the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs hugely appreciated.

In his contribution, Mr Abdul Malik also talked on the general effects of global climate change, and how it affected people and specially the island communities and their related environmental effects along the coastal areas. He also noted that climate change or climate variability affected also water supplies, agricultural activities, plants animal and ecosystems, forests, recreation and coastal areas. He also stressed the effect of climate change on wildlife, in which endangered species would be at risk because of deforestation, forest conversion and illegal hunting, which would result to food shortages caused by unusual rainfall patterns.

At the climax of the event, Mrs Isha Kamara that represented the National Coordinator, Mrs Gertrude Karimu, Women’s Network for Environmental Sustainability (WoNES), as guest speaker, talked on “Island Vulnerability and innovative Climate action against the growing risk of climate change”

In her contribution, she noted that Islands were considered to be climate change hotspots; highly vulnerable to the impacts of global warming, particularly in terms of sea level rise, temperature rise, rainfall changes, coral bleaching and increased storm frequency.

She also reiterated on the empowerment of women in providing innovative solutions to climate change. She also noted that women, being the most vulnerable should be empowered to champion climate action for both environmental sustainability and tourism development, which would positively impact the social and economic lives of the island communities, as resilient societies.

In line with International environmental policies on island resilience, Mrs Isha Kamara attributed the islands’ vulnerability to climate change; and therefore urged a focus on measures of adaptations and mitigations. And in meeting the challenges of climate change, Mrs Isha Kamara noted that measures should be put in place to move from vulnerability to resilience; that is, to move from a position of vulnerability and dependence to one of resilience. This she said will improve public understanding on the issues of climate change and island resilience.

Mrs Isha Kamara, Technical Programme Adviser, WoNES

In her conclusion, Mrs Isha Kamara however commended IslandAid Sierra Leone for its novel initiative, which had created the awareness for climate action in the island communities; and implored on its management to work with NGOs that also promoted environmental sustainability, sustainable tourism and island resilience in order to have the desired impact for tourism development.

In responding to the contributions made by the various speakers, Mr Dura Koroma, Executive Director, IslandAid Sierra Leone gave a cursory overview of the event, which he noted was a success but admonished the islanders to fully make use of the prescriptions of climate actions that had been escalated, geared towards having resilient Island and sustainable environment.

In his conclusion, Mr Koroma also gave a rundown of the other events; being Island Mix (Island

Run/Marathon and Boat race; and cultural talents

ISLAND MIX: ISLAND RUN/MARATHON AND BOAT RACE

Environmental sustainability and climate action for island resilience and tourism development was however escalated in the different way that created the awareness for community participation. This took the form of Island Run/Marathon and Boat race, with environmental messages inscribed on the T-Shirts of the five river locations that took part in the events.

Rover river:“Promoting Community based Tourism”
Bangasoka river: “Island Climate Action”
Atlantic Ocean:“Protecting and Preserving Mangroves”
Great scarcies:“Campaign Against Overfishing”

 Moa/Sewa rivers:          “Island Waste Disposal Management”

For the Island Run/Marathon, Participants, totaled twenty (20) took-off from the ecotourism camp, Kissi beach, Oku Town; and ended at the community field. It was a four (4) mile distance plus 1500 metres on the Tasso field. This attracted the island communities with environmental messages of environmental sustainability, island resilience and community based tourism development.

Participants for the Island Run/Marathon admonished on the rules of engagement 

Of the five river locations that took part in the island Run/Marathon, Bangasoka and Rokel rivers came first and runner’s up respectively. And for both the winner and runner’s up, received reasonable cash prizes given with certificates of participation, as a laurel of goodwill and appreciation for their contribution in promoting climate action for island resilience and tourism development

On the hand, the boat race was again spectacular. It also involved the five river locations, which event took place at Tasso wharf. The distance covered was from the Tasso jetty to the navigation poles, off-shore and back. This race was won by Rokel river; and runner’s up being Great scarcies. Also, reasonable cash prizes and certificates of participation given to the winner and runner’s up.

Island Boat race on Tasso Island

These events were climaxed with cultural mix, which painted the environment with cultural exchange and fun, as the theme of the events being,”Come for the Run; stay for the fun”

CULTURAL TALENTS

In promoting island cultural heritages, this year’s event had a mix of cultural exchange that exhibited the islands’ rich cultural diversity. The “Ngorboi”, “yamama” and “white bondo debul” Masquerade. The IslandAid Community Liaison Officer, Tasso Island, Mr Sinneh A Conteh, reiterated that island cultural identity would offer unique tourism product brands for tourists and local visitors; and that the innovative climate action had exhibited or displayed local cultural talents; being an experience of traditional and social mix

DONATIONS TO ISAND COMMUNITIES

The Island communities are environmentally and socially vulnerable; left at the mercy of environmental shock; deprived, abandoned and neglected; and devoid of the basic social amenities. Because of the inherent challenges faced by the islands, this therefore spurred development agencies/NGOs to support the Island communities along the Rokel and Bangasoka rivers. On behalf of WoNES, the Technical Programme Adviser, Women’s Network for Environmental Sustainability (WoNES) Mrs Isha Kamara donated various medical items to the Tasso Island Medical Centre. The medical officer attached to the Medical centre, Mr Massaquoi thanked WoNES for their effort in ameliorating the perennial problems that fraught the hospital

 

Various medical items donated by WONES to Tasso Island Medical Centre

Similar gesture was also extended to the Pepel and Tasso Islands communities by Caritas Freetown, which provided them twenty (20) cartons of Text and exercise books including pencils. The presentation was made to IslandAid Sierra Leone by Mr Bamie Sam, Programme Director, Desert Flower. On receipt of the books, the Principal JSS, King Fahad Secondary School Mr Alhaji MS Kargbo, on behalf of the parents and teachers, expressed a surge of appreciation for such a timely gesture.

 Twenty (20) cartons, containing readers, note books and Pencils donated by CARITAS to Pepel and Tasso Islands

FOCUS AREAS OF INTERVENTION

Our organisation, IslandAid Sierra promotes coast and Island conservation biodiversity, sustainable livelihood and tourism development. The core objective is to promote Island resilience, environmental sustainability and climate action that will enhance social economic transformation in the islands. This can however be achieved by collaborative partnership and stakeholder involvement.

In piloting the organisation’s annual projected activity plans, its implementation strategies, Mr Dura Koroma reiterated on the importance of Balanced Development and STEP Initiatives in the islands, which are geared towards narrowing socio-economic disparity in their local economies.

In line with the organisation’s strategic plan, activities relating to climate action, environmental management, biodiversity protection, sustainable livelihood, ecotourism development, island infrastructure development and cultural talent mix will be escalated for implementation. this can however be possible if  for possible implementation/recognition/commemoration if funds are made available.

Regarding the economic misery that clamped the island communities, Mrs Hawa Koroma, CEO, BIRD-SL, also escalated the need for alternative remedial intervention that can cushion the inherent economic burden faced by the islanders; that can provide them innovative and entrepreneurial skills in order to improve their social and economic lives within a healthy environment.

Mr Harry Mustapha, Island Development Consultant, also reiterated that with the availability of funds, our organisation will embark on skills training on local appropriate technologies, climate action for resilient islands, innovative and entrepreneurial development, ecotourism development and social infrastructure development for sustainable tourism development, which will enhance sustainable livelihood, thereby deterring anthropogenic activities and promoting environmental sustainability.

ACTIVITY OUTCOME

The Innovative Climate Action and Cultural Mix on Tasso Island was a success. It provided tangible prescriptions on island resilience and climate mitigations and adaptations, which ensured that the islands’ ecosystems and environmental assets (mangroves, tropical rain forests and coral reefs) would be conserved and protected through community education, systematic sensitization and awareness raising on environmental health, climate variability/change, pollution, deforestation, biodiversity loss, island resilience and sustainable development.

It therefore anticipated that such community engagement and stakeholders ‘dialogue would escalate innovative action for environmental sustainability against the growing risk of climate change.  

CHALLENGES AND CONSTRAINTS

At the close of the meeting, Mr Dura Koroma noted that IslandAid Sierra Leone was/is financially thwarted; devoid of the available resources to fully implement its projected activity outlays within the period. Since its inception to date, no project yet implemented but however systematically and routinely engaging in environmental education and climate action in the island communities; escalating island vulnerabilities ( environmental, social, ecological and economic), social and economic disparity; advocating for the preservation of cultural heritages and identity; and promoting community based tourism and infrastructure development.

That notwithstanding, we must however commend Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs (MTCA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Business Coalition for Island Resilience and Development ( BIRD-SL), United National Development Programme (UNDP), Freetown City Council FCC, National Tourist Board (NTB), Women’s Network for Environmental Sustainability (WoNES), CARITAS and  island communities for their support in making this event a success.

 CONCLUSION

In conformity with our organisation’s strategic plans and operational framework that pilot community driven initiatives; that promote balanced development, innovative climate action, environmental sustainability, community based tourism and  Island resilience, we are  therefore imploring on donor agencies, NGOs, line MDAs and others for effective collaborative partnership and support so that the myth of Island paradox  will be a new narrative that can add value to the social and economic fabric of the islands; and also preserve, conserve and protect their environmental assets; natural habitats and cultural heritages.

In view of the above, we are therefore counting on your usual cooperation and support for the attainment of environmental sustainability, innovative climate action, resilience islands and sustainable tourism development.

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