From the Editor’s Keyboard

Sierra Leone: Save the Environment

By  | 3 February 2014 at 10:54 | 1123 views

West Africa is increasingly becoming Sahel (semi-desert) due to environmental degradation. Anyone that has visited or has lived in countries like Senegal, Mali, Mauritania and Niger (just to name four countries) would tell you what the word Sahel means. Even northern Nigeria where the Boko Haram rebels are causing havoc is a victim of gradual desertification which means an environmental catastrophe is not too far away in that part of the country.

Africa’s problems are so numerous that people seldom talk about things like deforestation and damage to the environment caused by Man and Woman. But the condition of the environment, the health of Mother Nature, has a direct link to poverty in Africa leading to photos of baked and agriculturally useless land, dead cattle and starving human ghosts with feverish eyes.

In Sierra Leone, an organization called Green Scenery has been in existence for decades and there are other ecological or environmental organizations in the country like the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone, one of the earliest such organizations in the country. But it seems the work of these organizations, usually well funded from abroad, is not having much effect as for example the forests that once surrounded Freetown, the capital have all but disappeared. The once beautiful green rolling hills looking down on this city, one of the oldest in West Africa, have almost totally disappeared and replaced by ugly tin shacks and what US-based Political Scientist Jimmy Kandeh calls "Munku Mansions" (poorly designed abodes of the nouveaux riches).

Recently there has been some protests over the preservation of some of the forests in the south and east of the country (the famous Gola Forest is one) where unscrupulous Sierra Leoneans and their foreign friends are illegally involved in logging and mining activities.

In the north the forests are fast disappearing too due to all sorts of activities although some mining companies like London Mining are conscious about environmental damage and have a plan to mitigate that while working with government and local authorities to do what is necessary to protect the environment and the ecology in the areas they are carrying out mining activities. Other mining companies do not show the same dedication or simply do not care.

Logging is totally uncontrolled in many areas in the north thanks to the illiteracy of many of the traditional rulers (especially those at village level). Members of Parliament and councillors in those areas who are usually literate and educated are the same people working with foreign "investors" to destroy the environment in their constituencies for a few thousand dollars.

If this trend continues many parts of the country will soon become Sahel territory and then desert. That of course means hunger and starvation. And then death for plants, animals and human beings.

Intelligent and patriotic Sierra Leoneans should act NOW to prevent this before it’s too late. This is a national emergency.