By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya
Deforestation and Charcoal burning in almost all Chiefdoms across the country is alarming. This practice continues to intensify on a daily basis especially when the demand for wood energy is growing in a city (Freetown) that is suppose to use gas or electrical energy for cooking or other uses at homes. To some of us grown and used to seeing the beautiful trees waving and blowing cool and fresh breeze in the provinces in those days, this is a surprise for us since vast areas of land have been cleared off by activities of logging and uncontrolled charcoal burning.
Not all people are fan to this, but because there is presently no policy on charcoal burning in the country, it is difficult to launch a campaign for the total ban on cutting trees for charcoal production. The Paramount Chief of Sanda Taindarin Chiefdom, PC Alhaji Kandeh Wusu Sesay 2nd and the Member of Parliament and Committee Chairman on Energy and Power, Hon. Mulku Sulaiman Sesay are obviously not happy for the continued cutting down of trees and burning for charcoal in their Community in the Bombali District.
On diverse occasions, the Honorable Member of Parliament has been reechoing to his people in the Constituency about the important of trees to the environment and how protecting them will help mitigate the impact of Climate Change in the world. The strangers whose clandestine motive and intention is to carryout timber logging in the Chiefdom, brought their power saw and entered the forest illegally thereby felling down big trees through the aid of some villagers.
In one occasion, the Member of Parliament was furious and bitterly angered when he saw unidentified strangers in his Robin Village in the Sanda Taindarin Chiefdom and to cool down his temperament, he decided to inform the country’s Environment Protection Agency.
With a dedicated mind and caring leadership for the environment, the Executive Chairperson of the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone, Madam Jattou Jallow through the directives of her Board and management decided to send a high powered delegation to the Sanda Taindarin Chiefdom with the ultimate aim to inform and educate the community people about the important of protecting the trees and the forests. Among the delegation to the Chiefdom were the officials from the Environment Protection Agency, the Bombali District Forest Officer based in Makeni, officials from the Sierra Leone Police and members of the Press.
On our arrival here in Robin Village, Hon. Mulku Sulaiman Sesay quickly telephoned the PC Alhaji Kandeh Wusu Sesay 2nd and inform him about our presence in the village and urged him to converge to his house and hold a fruitful discussion on the logging and charcoal burning issue in the Chiefdom. Quickly, the village people complied and those who had harbored the strange loggers in the village were brought to book and given the opportunities to defend themselves for their actions without the knowledge of the either the Paramount Chief or the Member of parliament.
The Senior Environment Officer, at the Environment Protection Agency, Sheku Tejan Saccoh was quick to inform the people that the reasons for coming to the village is as a result of information given to the Agency by the Member of Parliament of the Chiefdom as well as fulfill the mandate of the Environment Protection Agency in educating people about the important of the environment as well as ensure people live in a safer environment.
Paramount Chief Kandeh Sesay 2nd while addressing his people at the residence of the Member of Parliament said the logging in his Chiefdom was done illegally without the knowledge of any high level authority like him or the MP in the Chiefdom. He however blamed the Section Chief for not doing enough in tracking what was going on in the village and for not informing him accordingly when he travelled out of the Chiefdom during when these activities were occurring.
All those accused of harboring the strangers to carryout illegal logging activities within the protected forest in the Chiefdom pleaded guilty for their actions in the presence of many other village people and key Chiefdom stakeholders. The accused and the Section Chief who were nearly whisked to police cells in Makeni apologized to the authorities and the Paramount Chief for their actions.
Collectively, they engaged with the Paramount Chief and came up with a strong message of action to be implemented in the Chiefdom. That message is the total overhaul in the protection of the forest and a ban on all charcoal burning activities in the Chiefdom. This statement and promise was voluntarily made by the Community stakeholders without any force or directives from any government official. The Paramount Chief said “henceforth, there will be no more charcoal burning, logging and wild bush fire in my Chiefdom. Whoever is caught will face the laws”.
The Senior Environment Officer, at the Environment Protection Agency, Sheku Tejan Saccoh who was the lead for the delegation was so happy about the outcome and declaration of the community people during the meeting. He said this has shown that indeed community people are prioritizing issues about the environment and the required information is just needed to be provided to them.
However, environmental awareness and education has proved to the community in Sanda Taindarin that it is needed in other to save the environment. If this is mainstreamed in all Chiefdoms especially in the North where deforestation is eminent, the remaining forests will be saved from deforestation for charcoal.