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VP Sumana plants trees and launches WAPFOR funded Community Dam

BY Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

The Government of Sierra Leone National Tree Planting period celebration in the Western Area was hosted at the Kossoh Town community on Monday the 11th June 2012 with the theme “plant Tree for Water”. During the celebration organized by the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security and supported by the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve project, key government officials, environmental stakeholders, the international community and the community people witnessed the Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone and donors planting trees as a show of their demonstration towards caring for the environment and protecting the Peninsular Forest Reserve.

The National Tree Planting celebration also culminated with the launching of the Kossoh Town Community Dam which was constructed by the WAPFOR project. The Kossoh Community has been facing difficulties in sourcing water for their domestic use but the €30,000 dam will now serve as a sigh of relief for them. WAPFOR sponsored the construction of the dam because they want the community to be part of the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve protection and the source for the newly constructed dam is the Western Area Forest Reserve. A total of sixty one water points have been identified at the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve and nine have been developed by the WAPFOR projects.

Before planting a tree and launching the WAPFOR funded Kossoh Town Community, the Vice President His Excellency Alhajie Sidikie Samuel Sumana said the United Nations has declared 2005 to 2015 as decade for water, and that it all started in Sierra Leone by the Siaka P. Stevens. He said he was very happy to be part of the programme through the dedicated initiative of the President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma. He said as leaders and policy makers, they are making sure that they preserve the Sierra Leonean forests and also ensure they provide the means for a sustainable forestry programme. The Vice President reaffirmed the need for protection of the forests and the need to approach the Ministry of Lands Country Planning and the Environment for legal acquisition of lands.

In his cautionary advice to the community people, the Vice President noted that if the European Union and the German people through Welthungerhilfe can come and assist in the country on any environmental project, it simply signifies that they have love for the people and government of Sierra Leone and the need for us to protect the forests for our own benefit.

The VP stated that under the Agenda for Change with the captain, they have identified many issues such as Free Hunger Sierra Leone and provision of sustainable water which must come and be fulfilled through the protection of the Sierra Leonean forests. In this regard, he called on the commitment of the communities to help protect the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve and help implement the environmental and forestry laws.

He highlighted that activities such as mining, wood provision, charcoal burning, settlement and others have all contributed to the destruction of the forests and the environment in Sierra Leone adding that the Ministry of Agriculture and others have set up a management plan through EPA-SL to curtail these activities.

He warned the community leaders and residents that the days when people will go into the hills and bushes are over and that anyone caught will be dealt with, adding that the water dam which has been constructed for them will benefit them greatly. As the Vice President planted the first sample of trees at the Kossoh Town Dam and Forestry area, he called on all Sierra Leoneans to also do the same in ensuring that the Sierra Leonean environment is protected.

The Representative for the European Union Jean-Pierre Reymondet-Commoy thanked the Government of Sierra Leone for its determination in championing environmental issues in the country. He highlighted some of the environmental projects which the EU have contributed in Sierra Leone such as the protection of the Gola National Park, the strengthening of Environmental Governance at the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone, the strengthening of the Forestry Department at the Ministry of Forestry in the framework of Climate Change, the establishment of Marine Protected Areas and the protection of the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve in which auspices the Kossoh Dam was constructed.

 

Vice President Sumana planting a the first tree while the rain was coming

The EU Representative said the event of the celebration and launch of the dam is an example of the concrete delivery of their partnership with the Government of Sierra Leone and that they are also looking out for projects that are more essential for the country.

The Country Representative for the German Welthungerhilfe and also Director for the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve Jochen Moninger after welcoming Ministers for attending the programme said that their work has now moved from the Ministry of Forestry to the Ministry of Water wherein they assist communities around the Peninsular Forest with their livelihood packages. He said their project targets nursing 340,000 trees and five nursery sites in Grafton, Regent, Levuma, Tombo, and Mambo, and that within the next three months they will be planting 240,000 trees around the Western Area Peninsular.

The WAPFOR Director also spoke about problems such as sand mining which is now destroying the beauty of the Western Area Peninsular beaches. He thanked the Government of Sierra Leone in their stride towards making the Western Area Peninsular to be enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Jochen Moninger also thanked his Forest Guards for their continuous and dedicated efforts in ensuring that the forest reserve is protected by arresting anyone they catch cutting a tree in the Forest as well as encroaching for settlement.

The Chairman for the National Tree Planting ceremony as well as Chairman for the Western Area Rural District Council Alhassan Cole said the day was a big day which cannot be forgotten in the environmental history of Sierra Leone especially when trees are being planted for water. He said that the Government of Sierra Leone and partners were planting trees because the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve has become a new diamond field in the country where people are desperately engaged in encroaching, selling of land and charcoal burning. He added that the degree at which this is increasing is now causing the Government of Sierra Leone and partners to plant trees at the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve.

On behalf of the Western Area Rural District Council, Mr. Alhassan Cole said sand mining is now a new means of environmental destruction that has penetrated into their beaches and urged the Government to come out with a sound sand policy in the Sierra Leonean beaches.

He thanked the European Union, the German government and the management of the Welthungerhilfe for their environmental support in the country, adding that with the introduction of the WAPFOR project in Sierra Leone, the communities have benefited greatly from livelihood projects such as bakery, small animal ruminants, trainings, vegetable production, Water dam construction to name a few.

The Minister of Energy and Water Resources Oluniyi Robin-Coker said the tree planting policy is a life policy and he reaffirmed the ideology of cutting a tree and planting more trees. He begged the Kossoh Community to take the dam with all the seriousness it deserves as the water depends greatly on the trees planted around the dam. He called on the Ministries of Lands and Agriculture and Forestry to join his Ministry in setting up an inter-ministerial committee for sustainable environmental development in the country.

The Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay said the National Tree Planting celebration is a policy and an ongoing process which his Ministry have developed for environmental and tree planting awareness in the country. He said they are planting the trees at the Kossoh Community for many reasons such as the road construction taking place at the Grafton-Regent highway, for the dam and for the massive encroachment taking place at those communities.

The Forest Minister thanked the European Union for funding the WAPFOR project and also funding the carbon trade programme in Sierra Leone, and also thanked the German WHH for their support towards the implementation of the project for the benefits of the country. He also thanked the EPA-SL for their relentless and dynamic strides towards environmental protection and leading the wall for life project which is gearing towards erecting a wall at the Sugar Loaf Community in Regent in order to frustrate encroachment into the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve.

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