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Charcoal burners, stone miners & wood cutters benefit from alternative livelihood trainings in Malama to protect the forest

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

The value of the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve and its watershed is not only known as a vital source of living and other related vital importance by educated elites but now it is being realized on a daily basis by local Communities surrounding its around the Peninsular. Like in other local communities around the forest, residents of the Malama community mainly youths comprising boys and girls has now thought it fit to abandon their old bad activities in the forest and revert to something that will make them achieve what they want in the future without depending on the proceeds of the forest and plundering it of its beautiful potentials in the country.

 

Some of the participants from various communities in Malama ready to be trained on livelihood activities

The Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve stretches though the Malama community and in the past, most of the youths in this community had been engaged seriously with activities that were not friendly to the environment and to the forest itself. The community is rated as being one in which the community youths depends seriously on the forest and carryout activities such as charcoal burning, stone mining and wood cutting they will use as fuel wood for their various homes. Most watersheds run down from the forest to the Malama communities including the Babadori valley which supplies abundant water for the community. It is estimated that over 80% of the domestic water the community people use comes from the forest but despite such valuable contribution of the forest to the local communities, they are seriously engaged in damaging it through deforestation by way of logging, stone mining and wood cutting.

 

After suspecting that these people are constantly engaged with these unfriendly activities in the forest, the management of the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve project (WAPFOR) thought it fit and necessary that these people should be provided with alternative livelihood in various needs in other for them to relinquish their activities from the forest and think of something that will help them better their lives in the future, develop their homes and contribute to nation building in the country. According to Mr. Idrissa Samba who is the WAPFOR Field Coordinator for Coastal communities, the project has decided to train sixty five (65) community youths in Malama, Kamayama, Pentagon, Gbangba Yila, Kondie Farm and Kaningo communities who were one way and the other engaged on either stone mining, wood cutting or logging in the forest to satisfy their daily living. WAPFOR contacted the Daughters Vocational Skills Training Center in Malama axis where they will be trained to become successive in their communities. The training of the 65 community members is being funded by WAPFOR and the participants are going to be engaged constantly on training in various livelihood activities such as hairdressing, gara tie dying, soap making and block/balusters making for a period of three months.

Mr. Samba noted that the whole essence of the training is to build up the capacity of charcoal burners, stone miners and wood cutters as main encroachers of the forest to attain livelihood options at the end of the day adding that about 140 charcoal burners ere identified at the Malama axis in six extensive communities and most of them have opted for various alternative livelihood options. He stated that the move will help reduce the level of dependency of the community people towards the forest. Speaking on the method of the selection of the beneficiaries, Mr. Samba said they were selected and nominated by their community heads and the beneficiaries selecting their alternative livelihood choices.

After the three months intensive training at the Daughters Vocational Skills Training Center on their various livelihood options, the grandaunts will be given start up kits by the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve. Apart from the start up kits now on standby for the grandaunts, Mr. Samba said the beneficiaries will also be provided with production centers for each of the livelihood centers and that after training, they will meet at the centers and make proceeds of their training on their own which they will sell to the community. Commenting further on the centers which they will soon provide for the beneficiaries, Mr. Samba said the community needs to provide the land in which such structures will be built.

Mr. Samba maintained that the beneficiaries will not only be trained on their livelihood activities in which they will be engaged on but they will also be trained on basic numeracy, conflict management, peace building, community development and other vital subjects at the center. He stated that base on the output of the participants after the three months training; they will also provide another set of training for other community people on various kinds of livelihood activities.

The Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve…deserved the right to be protected for maximum potentials

One of the Environment Management Committee for the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve at Kamayama, Chief Foday Kebay Conteh said ever since he was born and stays at his community,

this is the first time he has ever seen a project that caters for the local communities by removing them from the bush and impact useful talents on their heads. He added that the WAPFOR project had promised them

in the past that if they come out from the bush they will provide them with alternative livelihood and they have manifested that by selecting 65 community people for such training. He said they as a community has now realized the benefits of the Western Area forest and to ensure that they protect the said forest adding that they have joined the government of Sierra Leone and the WAPFOR through signing community bylaws by which any defaulter found on the forest will be seriously dealt with.

One of the two female forest guards for the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve, Marian M Samura said they are always determine to protect the forest by carrying out regular patrolling in the forested areas in search of any defaulter towards the forest. She added that she normally finds it encouraging patrolling in the forest and she called and encouraged her colleague female to help protect the western area peninsular forest reserve.

The team leader for the Malama forest guards, Kelfala Bangura said before now forest encroachment was rampant in the forest but since their engagement in patrolling the forest and persistent sensitization of communities on the important of the forest, the forest encroachment has reduced drastically.

A board member for the Daughters Vocational Skills Training Center, Madam Sia Ngongou thanked WAPFOR for partnering with them to train the community people. She promised that her institution will prove to the beneficiaries their essence after the completion of the training.

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