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Lands & Forestry Ministers tour Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve and promise to take action

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya
The Minister of Lands Country Planning and the Environment, Pat-Sowe and the Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security Dr. Sam Sesay had on Wednesday 24th August 2011 undertook a giant step in touring the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve specifically targeting at the Moku Hills along the Regent community areas. The touring exercise was organized and facilitated by the Welthungerhilfe (Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve) with the aim of seeing the progress made so far by the project and also taking a look at the newly demarcation pillars and bill board erected by WAPFOR at the forested areas. The Ministers took the opportunity to ask the Project manager for WAPFOR on what they have done so far on the implementation of the project especially in educating the community people on the importance of the forest to their daily life.
The Project Manager, Mr. Jochen Moninger showed the visiting delegation the newly demarcated boundary at the Moku Hills and also took the opportunity to explains the plans his organization has for the Leicester Peak. He said the Leicester Peak is going to be used as an educational and touristic center for the people of Sierra Leone. Up hearing this statement from the WAPFOR management, the Minister of Lands Country Planning and the Environment, Pat Sowe instructed his men to demolish a locally constructed “panbodi” house at the peak adding that when his men are ready for that exercise, they should request for the presence of the police and take away all the zinc they are going to take from there and sell it for which funds he said should be sent to the Ministry.

WAPFOR Project Manager…Jochen, talking to the Lands and Forestry Ministers at Moku Hills

The Ministers during the visit were very much disappointed at the level in which community people had undertaken to construct houses at the Moku Hills with most of them defying going through the legal procedures from the ministry. Some people are constructing their houses within and beyond the newly constituted demarcation mark (green belt). Because of this most of the houses has been marked with X symbolizing not legal and should be broken but the people are continuously defying such marks in the community. In fact most of the houses were once broken and the more houses are broken in this area, the more the community people continue to build new structures.
During the visit, the delegation comprising the Lands and Forestry Ministers and other representatives learnt that there are ill activities undertaken at the forest such as jamba planting and hunting. On the issue of planting jamba/marijuana in the forest, the Minister of Lands, Pat Sowe promised to undertake a robust action towards such people undertaking that activity and also made it known that he will inform the Inspector General of Police to carry out operation and destroy marijuana plantation while also arrest any person caught with such act. The Lands Minister called for an intensification of the protection of the forest and called for a joint patrol and the involvement of the Sierra Leone, the Environment Protection Agency, the lands and Forestry ministries and other stakeholders in which a date should be selected within the week for such plans and proposals to be executed.
The Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security called on all Sierra Leoneans and his colleague ministers for a moral obligation in protecting the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve as well as ensuring that corporate responsibility is maintained on the part of the environment and the forest.

The bill board at the forest in Moku hill community

The giant bill board placed in the forest boundary indicates the do and don’ts in the forest as well as guiding the community on their responsibilities in protecting the forest. After Jochen Moninger had showed the Ministers the bill board, the Ministers appreciated the efforts of WAPFOR and they recommended for the erection of more bill boards in the communities within and around the forest and the newly demarcated areas so that the people will not be tempted to enter into the forest for the sake of deforestation and establishment of new settlements.
The Minister of Forestry, Dr. Sam Sesay made it known that they have trained and recruited sixty forest monitors to patrol and man the forest adding that they will soon available in the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve. The project has trained and recruited community people including forest guards and forest rangers to patrol the forest on a daily basis and report on any activity they suspect going on in the forest. Through their efforts very recently, they have caught and apprehended two power saw machines carrying out logging in the forest.
In an interview with a forest officer attached at the WAPFOR project, Augustine Boba said that they have erected 124 pillars from the Mambo community in Hamilton to Motaim community. The only question now at hand is if the community people are ready to obey the rules and avoid entering to the forest with the aim of deforestation or other bad activities.

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