By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya
Mainstreaming environmental and climate change issues is gaining momentum in the country and Civil Society groups are putting their wheels on motion to join other groups and nations to face this new challenge in the country. During a three day reflection meeting last week in the city of Bo, the Action for Large-scale Land Acquisition Transparency (ALLAT) have realized that combating Climate Change in the country is not just the effort of the government alone but also the time for them to join forces to start promoting climate change resilience in the context of national food security.
In addition to their new mandate to ensure responsible governance of the tenure of land, fisheries and forests in Sierra Leone, all member organizations of ALLAT in Bo agreed to add this new mandate of promoting Climate Change resilience in the context of national food security in the country. With their vision to ensure a society of improved land governance and reduced Climate Change impact in Sierra Leone, what this new mandate mean is that henceforth, ALLAT will prioritize Climate Change resilience and ensure they raise the awareness to the Sierra Leonean populace in other to promote food security in the country.
Speaking during the reflection in Bo, the Executive Director of Green Scenery, Mr. Joseph Rahall said ALLAT was established in 2013 and has been taking forward the issues of community land as a way of driving the process forward to the policy level in the country and prioritizing the Voluntary Guidelines on the responsible governance of land. He said the purpose of the meeting was to reflect on what has been achieved, outstanding challenges to be achieved and review or replace the strategic plan for ALLAT.
Over the years what ALLAT had achieved is one of the things many organizations have not been able to achieved since they were formed. At the national level, ALLAT sits at the steering committee of the constitutional review process, on a regular basis, ALLAT issues policy briefs on land issues in the country and among other ALLAT is providing space for the government to understand what is really going on in various Communities about land across the country.
Speaking on the linkages between their new mandate and land in promoting Climate Change resilience in the context of national food security in the country, Mr. Rahall said the more people have problem with climate change and fluctuations on whether patterns, the more the consequences on the land and henceforth impact on food insecurity for the people. He added that is important at this time toilet the farmers knows that there is climate change and it is bound to have serious consequences on the land, the soil fertility and the soil texture.
The August 2015 ALLAT meeting is the precursor to the present reflection meeting here in Bo. Apart from establishing a clearly stated new mandate on Climate Change, the issue of establishing an independent ALLAT Secretariat was also prioritized and members took into cognizance the availability of logistics for running the new secretariat. The existing strategic plan for ALLAT was also examined where various views and opinions of members were reflected.
Although Sierra Leone, Senegal and Mexico were identified as countries that have made significant and commendable progress in the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines, it was reported at the conference in Berlin that the space for CSOs to critically and effectively engage on Land Rights is progressively shrinking and there is need for CSOs to adopt radical fighting for more space that can potentially enhance their effective functioning.
The expectation of many ALLAT members during the reflection meeting in Bo was to see their alliance operate an independently Secretariat with a coordinating and governance system in place and a representative of SiLNORF which is also an ALLAT Member, Lansana Hassan Sowa was glad because such expectations were met. He believes that for the past three years ALLAT has done extremely well but added that what is now needed from member organizations is to strengthen the gains that ALLAT has already made.
A representative of the Women Network on Environmental Sustainability, Gertrude Karimu said in the beginning ALLAT has been working on the voluntary guidelines on land issues but that she is glad for the fact that they have agreed to add climate change campaign into their new mandate. Comparing and assessing their work in the past, Mrs. Karimu said the most important thing ALLAT has done is the fact that through their campaign many women have realized their rights to land in the country and the government again have recognized them as a responsible organization.
A representative from Christian Aid, a Partner Organization for ALLAT, Mr. Demoh said Christian Aid has previously worked with Green Scenery on other programs, but recently a suggestion was made to the latter that: there is a need to strengthen ALLAT in order to prepare them to independently work on projects and deliver outcome without a ‘parent body’. He said the approach of Christian Aid has always been and it will continue to be about supporting partners to generate issues and then work with them to address such issues with the aim of achieving laid down objectives and goals.
The Christian Aid representative also said that it is imperative that ALLAT as a network of CSOs working on land rights issues start thinking broadly and on a long term basis-capturing future demands, changes, challenges both at national level and within the global context.
Emurana Sowa from Welthungerhilfe which is also a key partner organization said for the goal of food security to be achieved, there must be a deliberate focus on agricultural development, especially small-holder agriculture and this is achieved by protecting community or individual land ownership, especially in the face of the utilization of the same land for large scale industrial projects. He said there is a need to strike a fine balance between the need for land for industrialization development as well as the need to use land for livelihood by vulnerable people adding that WHH provides support to CSOs that aim to maintain such balance especially in the context of achieving food security and protecting individual land rights. He commended the work of GS and disclosed that GS is the first CSO in Sierra Leone that took the VGGT principles from the books and put them into practice in communities around the country. AGEH, Civil Peace another of GS partner that supported the event was inadvertently absent due to a leave of absent.
After the three days reflective meeting, ALLAT members elected their new leadership to manage the affairs of the alliance for the next six months