Islands have been the bell-weathers for international environmental policies; also the trove for biodiversity. And the extent of their vulnerability occasioned by the growing risk of climate change, environmental disasters and the harsh human activities has been a global concern to seek innovative actions and solutions.
To escalate these perennial problems for the attention of the key stakeholders, in the form of advocacy, sensitization and community education, our organization, IslandAid Sierra Leone therefore decided to hold this interactive and group discussion workshop/ conferences with key stakeholders from the MDAs, NGOs, Development partners and others.
Thus, this conference was an off-shoot of the outcome of last year’s consultative policy dialogue, in which the outstanding issues then not fully exhausted and put pending were now tabled again for proactive remedial policy action.
The conference/workshop attracted key stakeholders within the government/MDAs, NGOs, development agencies, island communities, media houses, friends of islands and consultants, which individual contributions really made the occasion a success; it achieved the desired impact.
The high table was made up of the following:
- Dura Koroma, Executive Director, IslandAid Sierra Leone
- Kolleh Bangura, Executive Director, National Protected Area Authority
- Bashiru Kargbo, Research officer, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Harry S Mustapha, Island Development Consultant & Chairman
- Ensah Kamara, Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs
- Tony Maltaby, Marine Consultant, Sovereign Ferries
- Peter Nelson, Planning and Environmental Consultant, Planning Green Futures, UK
Other key representatives from the MDAs were:
- Kepifri Lakoh, MAFFS/WAAPP
- Henry David Bayoh, National Tourist Board(NTB)
- Inah Dixon, Sierra Leone Peace Cultural Monument
- Unisa S Sesay, Ministry of Transport and Aviation
- Madam Melissa Ndure, EPA
- Abdurahman Kamara, Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority
- Madam Alextina King, Women Network for Environmental Sustainability
- Alusine Kargbo, Ministry of Youth Affairs
- Ibrahim P Tholley, Ministry of Youth Affairs
The occasion/conference was also attended by key community stakeholders, island communities, media houses, friends of islands, civil society groups, consultants and market women. The overall attendance was however encouraging, which occasion is expected to positively impact the lives of the island communities; viz the environment, economic and social wellbeing.
After the preliminary protocols were observed, the welcome address was then made by Mr. Alhaji M S Kargbo who gave a cursory synopsis of IslandAid’s strives and the intervention of key stakeholders to move with the development train for the transformation of the lives of the island communities; and this he said cannot be done in isolation but with collaborative effort of total commitment. And he noted that the conference will provide the blueprint for islands’ solution and actions as a recipe for social economic transformation. After giving such a brief remark, he them welcomed the participants to this august gathering which he said would be tailored to have fruitful discussions.
OPENING OF CONFERENCE
The occasion was put to order by the chairman, also dubbed as Development Consultant, Mr. Harry Mustapha; and both Muslim and Christian prayers offered to invite the presence of God in the deliberations. The Chairman, Mr. Harry Mustapha, gave a cursory remark on the theme of the occasion, which was geared towards the sustainable development of the islands in the country; a development agenda escalated in line with the resolutions adopted on the UN Agenda 21 of sustainable development initiatives. This he said can only be achieved by effective collaborative ties for a common interest.
STATEMENTS AND PRESENTATIONS
The Executive Director, IslandAid Sierra Leone Mr. Dura Koroma, gave a lucid picture of the activities of his Organisation and the policy direction in conserving nature and preserving life, especially the protection of the islands’ ecosystems, environment and biodiversity, which he echoed were at the mercy of the adverse effect of climate change and environment shocks. He however recounted on the wide social and economic disparity in the Islands, compounded by abject poverty and economic misery. He also noted that to provide a solution recipe or prescription, there was the need to do needs assessment survey, to determine the inherent needs gap; and he however reaffirmed the organisation’s commitment to transform the socio-economic lives of the island communities by engaging in certain community driven and result-oriented activities; viz, microfranchaise, (a solution to poverty model), community development projects ( Island youth training and empowerment, cultural tourism, agritourism, ecotourism, and cooperative fishing for housing project and others). This he noted can only be actualized by collaborative support.
To utilize the natural richness of the islands for tourism development penetration, there is need to catalyse commitment that can enhance social economic transformation in lives of the island communities. The intervention of the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs was a timely venture to addressing the situation. Mr. Ensah Kamara cogently talked on tourism planning, development and marketing, which are three related components that stimulate sustainable tourism in order to impact the island communities and the economy. He also reiterated that the islands are drivers for sustainable tourism development, which destination sites are expected to be provided with cultural heritages and tourist attractions. And IslandAid Sierra Leone can be an interface between the Island communities and Government through the MDAs; and development and donor agencies to create the change and transformation on the islands
In the area of Island waste management, pollution, environmental management and monitoring, Mr. Bashiru Kargbo, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), emphasized the fact that islands are acutely vulnerable as a result of human activities; viz, the uncontrollable level of pollution and wastage disposal; and which effects are 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
The Executive Director, National Protected Area Authority (NPAA), Dr Kolleh Bangura, gave a brief background of his organisation’s operational mandate as enshrined in the Act; and which activities provided systematic education, sensitization and awareness raising drive in the form of community engagements to protect the environmental assets (Mangroves vegetations, coral reefs and tropical rain forests. Dr Kolleh Bangura also stressed that islands were one of the natural gems of a nation which natural richness can be preserved, protected and developed for feasible economic benefits, especially in the area of tourism development and other related activities. He however made a pragmatic comparison with other countries that had developed their islands, and which been sources of income and economic livelihood. Regarding the perseverance of the management team of IslandAid Sierra Leone, especially the Executive Director, Mr. Dura Koroma who had showed an unmatchable level of commitment and determination in advocating and promoting the interest of the island communities; and that success was abound; and his organisation would give the necessary support to IslandAid for both to work in unison for a common and related objective and goal.
Mr. Henry David Bayoh, National Tourist Board on the other hand re-affirmed the commitment of the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs and the National Tourism Board to bring transformation in the tourism industry; and commended IslandAid Sierra Leone for their novel initiatives that had created a push in regulating the wheel of purpose and lubricating the engine of sustainable tourism development. He however cautioned island communities and other key community stakeholders not to expect much for now; and that the organisation was devoid of funding support the Government, NGOs and development agencies; and not to think that the organisation had been funded and the earmarked activities not implemented; that to organize such a programme like this, it involved a reasonable outlay; and in a situation where funds were not made available to facilitate the process, it became very frustrating and stressful. This was noted by Mr. Hennery David Bayoh
Mr. Peter Nelson, Planning and Environmental Consultant performed dual roles, as an International Environment Consultant, Planning Green Futures, UK and Guest speaker on the special request by the Executive Director, Mr. Dura Koroma due to the ill-health of Dr Saskia Marijnissen, Head of Team, Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Management, UNDP who was not able to attend, but which notification relayed prior to the inception of the conference.
In his professional and technical contribution, Peter however 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 noted that evidently, stronger hurricanes, spreading of sea weeds and severe heat waves, could be life threatening; that the Earth would be getting warmer with negative effects that affecting habitation, resulting to biodiversity loss; and that action needed to be taken to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that caused climate change. He also noted that climate change or climate variability affected also water supplies, agricultural activities, plants animal and ecosystems, energy, 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; and that it would result to food shortages caused by unusual rainfall patterns.
And as a remedial intervention, he also noted that since the Islands being the most vulnerable, therefore efforts had to be exerted by the state actors/MDAs and development agencies with collaborative commitment to empower community based organizations, specifically IslandAid Sierra Leone, as an advocacy platform that had been promoting Island Conservation Biodiversity and sustainable livelihood; and to help in implementing activities in line with the resolutions adopted under the UN Agenda 21 for island sustainable development initiatives.
In another capacity, Mr. Peter Nelson also talked on island ecotourism development and the impact on the lives of the communities. As a consultant in planning and environment, he was inspired by the proactive initiatives of IslandAid under the stewardship of Mr. Dura Koroma who had given his selfless effort and resources to escalate the problems inherent in the Islands. In support of the development agenda of the IslandAid Sierra Leone, he therefore decided to use his resources to design an ecotourism Project for Tasso Island, which was launched in August 2016 in collaboration with the National Tourist Board. He however commended the Tasso Island community for their cooperation and support; and that such scheme or project would also benefit other islands depending on the social and economic viability and sustainability impact
The chairman, Mr. Harry Mustapha, in giving an overview of the statements/ presentations made by the various representatives, he reiterated of the IslandAid Sierra Leone’s commitment in transforming the lives of the island communities but emphasized that the organisation was devoid of funding support; that since its inception, no funding support yet received. Thus, the organization only received support from the professional or consultancy services (Tax policy and financial management) offered or provided to the business organizations (Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs) by the Executive Director, Mr. Dura Koroma; and also from friends. And that IslandAid Sierra Leone’s management team had a focus and determination to transform the lives of the island communities; and this can only be actualized by catalyzing commitment and support. This was also buttressed by Mr. Abu Bakarr Kamara, Councilor ward 348, constituency 97; he also expressed dismay in the way the councilors were neglected and distanced from emerging development activities, which act was against the enshrined statutory and local government regulation; he also talked on the problems that made the islands not accessing development opportunities; this he said was as a result of the means of transportation which seemed risky and unsafe; and prone to possible sea accident and other eventualities; that he had made frantic effort in escalating the problems of the island under his jurisdiction but because of such a situation, most of the NGOs were restrained to heed and intervene to his requests and project proposals. He however re-affirmed his political commitment to serve his subject or people with the synergy to create positive impact in the islands; and he commended the efforts of the Executive Director, Mr. Dura Koroma for organizing such a meeting/conference in which the problems of the islands are piloted for the intervention of state actors
Mr. Eustace Yaskey of Jamaica, Bonthe Island, re-echoed the point of how the islands were abandoned, deprived and neglected irrespective of their richness; and that abject poverty had been a social and economic norm in their lives. He cited the cultural potentials and diversity in Bonthe Island, which he said, had been left untapped. He however stressed that with his artistic talents in carving, could promote cultural tourism that would benefit the community. He however commended the novel initiative of IslandAid Sierra Leone for organizing such a conference that gathered key stakeholders together to deliberate on the problems of the islands in the country.
Also, Mr. Tony Maltaby, Marine consultant, talked on safety sea transportation that would facilitate tourism development; and that as a marine consultant in the area of tourism development, his organisation would create the enabling environment to ensure that the objective and vision of IslandAid was achieved, especially when Peter Nelson was working in collaboration with the organisation in promoting Island Ecotourism development.
The Executive Director, Mr. Dura Koroma on the other hand, also talked on the negative externalities of development, especially along the coastal area on the emergence of mining activities, as in the case of Pepel Island (operational Area) and Tasso Island and others (affected areas). He noted the related corporate social responsibility benefit provided not adequate enough to cushion their social and economic burden; and that their predominant economic activity, fishing now misplaced because of certain restrictive conditions as a result of the installation of the navigation poles at the main sea channels.
After a very though searching and elucidating deliberation and interactive discussion, participants then asked pertinent questions relating to the theme of the conference; and a few of which questions were directed to the International Planning and Environment Consultant, also dubbed as Guest speaker for the occasion, Mr. Peter Nelson. The questions were related to environmental management and biodiversity protection, ecotourism development, island governance, strategic land use and planning and sustainable livelihood.
APPEAL FOR FUNDING SUPPORT
In line with the submission of the Chairman, Mr. Harry S Mustapha, the executive Director also reiterated the same, in the area of funding support, which he said can help in effectively addressing the environmental, social and economic problems inherent in the islands; and that IslandAid Sierra Leone had designed a strategic activity profile that would be addressing the emerging problems in the islands. The Executive Director, Mr. Dura Koroma emphatically told the participants that since the inception of the activities of IslandAid Sierra Leone, no external support yet received; and that the organisation could expand its scope of activities if support was provided my NGOs, MDAs and Donor agencies.
INSTITUTIONAL CAPACITY BUILDING
In escalating the development initiatives of IslandAid Sierra Leone and result-oriented drive of its management team, the chairman, Mr. Harry Mustapha implored on the key stakeholders (MDAs NGOs and development agencies) to capacitate the organization and also extend effective collaborative ties/partnership in the implementation of their island related programmes; and that IslandAid Sierra Leone would be a local implementing partner, serving as a interface; an island community advocacy platform.
Having fully and exhaustively discussed the issues that were escalated and piloted for the attention of the key stakeholders, the conference was however came to a close; and Mr. Henry David Bayoh, National Tourist Board, gave the vote of thanks. He however commended the participants, the community stakeholders, international consultants (marine and environment management of IslandAid Sierra Leone with specifically, the Executive Director, Me Dura Koroma for his innovate acumen and the ability to create impact in the island communities, especially in the areas of environmental protection, Biodiversity protection, and the awareness for ecotourism development. He however noted that with the availability of support IslandAid can do more in complimenting the effort of the MDAs. And in his closing remark, he therefore thanked everybody all that attended.
As a family of oneness with a common objective and goal to transform the lives of the island communities, and with a feel of belonging, the islanders and a cross section of the participants decided to have a family photo. It was really a show of island mix, in which it was decided to celebrate in December, an Island fiesta (cultural and social function)
Regarding all that was said by the representatives of the various MDAs and consultants, it came out apparently that IslandAid Sierra Leone had created immense impact in the island communities, as a advocacy platform to complement the efforts of the MDAs in the area of island conservation biodiversity; and it therefore needs your support in finding proactive and innovative solutions for the islands.
Mr. Dura Koroma
IslandAid Sierra Leone
Facebook page: islandAid Sierra Leone