On 11.04.2014, the Natural Resources Management Contact Group met again to discuss topics surrounding natural resources. The meetings were starting for two reasons;
- To provide the GoSL, private sector, civil society, donors and implementing partners a venue for sharing information on their existing and planned programs.
- To develop the capacity needed to advocate effectively for natural resources management priorities at the national level.
This meeting consisted of representatives from Welthungerhilfe (WHH), the EU, the Environmental Foundation for Africa, STEWARD, the World Bank, university students and any interested parties. The meetings allow for various people to present on projects they are involved in, current natural resource issues in Sierra Leone and discuss any pertinent issues surrounding the predetermined themes of the meetings. In this meeting five different presentations were conducted, surrounding water, the Western Area Peninsula Forest, the mineral extraction industry and an EFA update on the Biodiversity and Renewable Energy Learning Centre.
The first presentation was on the highlights from the World Water Day Celebrations by Mr. Kofi Panyin Yarboi (STEWARD). The highlights included the issue of uneven water distribution around Sierra Leone, the need for better maintenance of water infrastructure and the use of small grants to improve water access and the maintenance of those sources. Providing a long term and regular supply of water to all Sierra Leoneans must be a target for government and the civil sector.
Mr. Kofi Panyin Yarboi also noted that STEWARD has been focusing on the relationship between watershed management, forests and a clean supply of water. Thus a focus on land management and conservation of forests has been high on their agenda in the region. In addition Mr. Yarboi, emphasized the need for more GIS mapping to be conducted in the region and the need for more collaboration on this front to address the many environmental issues facing the region.
Continuing the meeting was EFA’s own, education officer, Aminata Bundu. She updated the group on the progress of the Biodiversity and Renewable Energy Learning Centre (BRELC) in Sussex along the peninsula. The centre will open June 2014 and will provide a state of the art facility, providing exhibitions, workshops, a school educational programme and practical tours of the centre to inform the various visitors of the centre on topics such as environmental sustainability, renewable energy, biodiversity and natural resource management.
Jochen Morninger (WHH) then proceeded to provide an update on the WAPFoR project post completion. The project was implemented to protect the forest around the Western Peninsula, because of its value to the area through the provision of water, biodiversity and its value through ecosystem services to local population. Forest guards have been trained and patrols now run to make sure the boundaries of the forest are respected. Many communities now also have alternative livelihood activities, which will decrease anthropogenic pressures on the forest for resources. The forest has also slightly increased in size since the protection of the forest began.
The next area of discussion was the World Bank’s report on the Political Economy of Extractives Governance in Sierra Leone, which Chris Gabelle one of the authors presented. The report is the most in depth analysis of the extractives industry in Sierra Leone yet. The report draws on the history of the extractives industry in Sierra Leone and the modern day situation. The report prompted lots of discussion around the issue of the mining sector, equitable growth and community development projects.
Lastly, Adolfo Alonso Cires (Program Manager for Rural Development, Food Security and the Environment) presented the latest EU project, the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and land Degradation) capacity building project in Sierra Leone. The project will strengthen the forestry division in Sierra Leone to improve forest protection, map the forested area in Sierra Leone to better analyze the current status and future changes and to raise awareness of climate change and environmental degradation around the country. The project is aiming to instil a culture of forest preservation among communities through these awareness campaigns, to avoid continued deforestation in Sierra Leone.