From the Editor’s Keyboard

WABiCC and the future of coastal people in Sierra Leone

26 November 2019 at 12:50 | 1373 views

By Emperor Bailor Jalloh, PV Freetown Bureau Chief

The West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change ( WABiCC) a five-year learning project funded by the United States Agency for International Development ( USAID) has been improving the lives of coastal people in Bonthe Island (Sherbro island) in the south of Sierra Leone via capacity building training in mangroves restoration, embankment, rice- mangroves integration and village savings loan associations ( VSLAs) for a brighter future of those vulnerable communities with fishing, rice and cassava farming activities for their livelihoods.

Recently, WABiCC led a team of senior journalists from Freetown after a briefing session including your truly to Keiga, Momaya and Gbomgboma communities all in Sherbro Island to gauge the impact so far being created on the lives of those local communities by WABiCC capacity building training in mangroves restoration, embankment ,rice-mangroves integration and VSLAs.

Testimonies were made by members of Keiga, Momaya and Gbomgboma communities on the positive being created on their lives by WABiCC capacity building in the areas of environmental protection, children education, rice farming and business which they described as important and timely and pledged to continue the knowledge they had acquired so far from WABiCC capacity building training in a bid to sustain the protection of their environment from environmental disaster such as flooding and erosion, their livelihoods and VSLAs.

Among those who made live testimonies on the positive impact on their lives by WABiCC intervention, were madam Mariama Gassama, Salu Gassama, Mina Yorpy, Joseph Cole and Kain Ballay all of Keiga community, Tanu Sesay community head, Abu Sankoh chairman embankment, teacher Marie Davies and Alhaji Noah Koroma all of Momaya community, Kaynia Alliu secretary VSLA, madam Fatmata Sallu trader and Musa Lahai elder all of Gbomgboma community. They proposed to embark in future on groundnut farming with VSLAS proceeds.

The Councilor of Ward 306 in Constituency 78 in Bonthe Municipality, Munda T. Beah who also doubles as WABiCC chairman Bonthe also expressed thanks and appreciation to WABiCC for what he referred to as good work so far in Bonthe Island.

Addressing those coastal people during the field visit, Eugene Cole, Knowledge Management and Learning Specialist, WABiCC Accra office and Fatmata Katta, Communications Specialist WABiCC Freetown office reminded their audience of WABiCC folding up and admonished them to continue to be resilient in sustaining mangroves restoration, embankment, rice-mangroves integration and VSLAs in the absence of WABiCC and to lay a solid foundation for their future generation.

The Sherbro River Estuary is one of Sierra Leone’s four estuary Marine Protected Areas and comprises a variety of habitats that offer tremendous opportunities to support human livelihoods and diverse plant and animal biodiversity. The dominant diverse mangrove forests and extensive mud and sand flats support several sea turtle species, including green ,hawksbills, Oliver Ridleys, leatherbacks, and loggerheads. Crocodiles, monitor lizards, mambas, and water snakes also thrive here. The Sherbro River Estuary’s mangroves play a vital role in food security and economic growth by providing breeding grounds for fish and many other marine species.

The rich biodiversity of the Sherbro River Estuary faces significant threats. Approximately 8 % of the mangroves in the region have been lost since 1990 due in part to mangrove cutting for firewood and construction purposes. In addition, the biodiversity of the region of sea threatened by habitat destruction, the collection of sea turtle eggs and other endangered species products, land use change due to agricultural encroachment, settlement development, hunting and the over exploitation of fishery resources. Climate change impacts planned and perceived, including coastal erosion, flooding due to increased system surge and droughts exacerbate these threats.

WABiCC works in partnership with national and local partners and communities to improve livelihoods and increase environmental and economic resilience to climate change by promoting community based ecosystems management, providing improved fish- smoking systems and additional community livelihood and disaster risk reduction measures as a way of building resilience to climate, promoting awareness raising and behavour change communication campaigns to support conservation, ecosystem approach restoration of degraded mangrove areas, targeted capacity building, and sustainable management of ecosystem resources including the training in , and hands-on construction of coastal embankment.
PARTNERSHIPS AND GRANTS - WABiCC activities focus on the Member States of their partner Mano River Union –Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote d IVoire. The 15 Member States of WABiCC partner ECOWAS are a fertile learning ground and will contribute to the understanding of best practices and relevant policies as does The Abidjan Convention is their third core regional partner. They each receive technical, financial and material support from the program.

WABiCC presence in Bonthe Island (Sherbro Island) south of Sierra Leone for about 2 years now has ben transforming the lives of people via capacity building in mangroves restoration, embankment, rice-mangroves integration and village savings loan associations (VSLAS) for a solid road for future generation of coastal people in Sierra Leone- environmental protection, improved livelihoods and proper financial management with VSLAs.