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As WAPFOR issues first aid kits to forest guards Military assistance help protect the Peninsular Forest Reserve

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

This writer has been keep saying this to the stakeholders that military assistance and support is needed in other to help protect the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve but it has not been realized until when recently the forest guards trained and paid by the WAPFOR protect to help secure the forest made it clear at a monthly meeting in Wilberforce that military assistance will help them greatly in protecting the forest reserve for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans. It should be noted that the forest guards by law and statute whether employed by the WAPFOR project or the government of Sierra Leone are not entitled to hold guns or rifles and this power is only entrusted to the Sierra Leone army or the Operational Support Division of the Sierra Leone Police.

 

WAPFOR Project Manager, Jochen giving out first aid kits and cutlass to a forest guar

While they are on their daily routine patrol and guarding the Western area peninsular forest reserve, the forest guards and forest rangers have faced with many confrontations from people who are encroachers, land grabbers, charcoal burners, stone miners loggers, diamba plantation owners to name just a few. According to their functions, when ever they caught any defaulter in the forest, they must take such person to the chief or the nearest police station for possible action in line with the bylaws signed by these communities around the forested areas.

The forest guards due face confrontations with the loggers and forest defaulters while claiming that they are inferiors and do not deserve to be respected because they are just forest guards and when the guards complain to the chiefs about what they facing and take  the defaulters to them, their complains were not normally treated with the seriousness they deserve. According to the forest guards, there are many diamba plantations in the middle of the forest and most of these farms are owned by former combatants who are ready to crush any person that meet them in the forest.

A forest guard who covers Tombo and Waterloo, Mr. Amidan Kamara said most of them are being abused and threatened them with cutlasses while they are on their duty in patrolling in the forest. He opined that if the forest guards are not supported with military officers, who carry guns while they are patrolling the forest, the fulfillment of the protect is questionable because the charcoal burners and other sect of forest defaulters will not fear them even if they meet them cutting big logs inside the forest, the loggers will always overpower them.

 

A forest guard, Ishmael Kabia said at Checsil a councilor called Kadie Mahoi is presently carrying out brushing at the protected forest and when she was questioned and warned to stop the brushing, she was alleged to have said she got instructions from the government of Sierra Leone to implement a project.

The Director for the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve project, Jochen Moninger said the commitment of the forest guards towards the forest and their welfare is very much needed by them. He said that there are many things needed to be done and address adding that they have the evidence that the forest guards paid by their project are not working and one of the team leaders was not working for six months but was receiving salaries at the end of the month. He discouraged this kind of act and urged the team leaders and forest guards to put their attentions to wards protecting the Western Area Peninsular Forest Reserve.

Mr. Jochen inform the team leaders at a meeting that they need to inform them of any concern and needs as they are always at their liberty to solve those issues and concerns for them. He informed them that there will be new changes in their postings and urged them to improve on their reporting system on their duties towards the forest.

After making reference to some of the challenges the forest guards need to address, the Project Manager acknowledged them for apprehending two power saw machines some months back and also pleaded with them to put more effort during their daily functions and warned not to relent as bad activities are going on a daily basis in the forest.

He said the most of the new forest boundary has been known and most people are aware of it but that the next step is the buffer zone which work is presently going on.

Presently, the project is erecting watch towers for the forest guards in other to help them see far distances for any activities going on. Mr. Jochen made it known to them that someone should sit at the watch tower constantly in which very soon they are going to provide proper equipments such as solar lights, binocular to name a few so that the forest guards will feel powerful when they are in the forest.

Mr. Jochen stated that their physical presence in the forest is much needed so that those wishing to go and carry out bad activities will be frustrated to do so and added that the forest guards need to associate with the community people and also inform them of the importance of the forest if it is protected. He maintained that there are lots to be done in the forest and made it known that he is ready to assist and help towards any extra ordinary effort in protecting the forest from the side of the forest guards and he also urged his WAPFOR staff to do all they can in ensuring the forest is protected.

Jochen Moninger showing Lands and Forestry ministers what they have done in the forest

The WAPFOR Project Manager gave first aid kits including antibiotic and pain medicines to the forest guard team leaders which they should use in case of pains and wounds while on duty in the forest. The forest guards were also supplied with cutlasses to help protect them selves in the forest.

In his report, the team leader at the John Obay cluster, John Momoh Sesay said since there is no demarcation pillar at their cluster for now, the community people are encroaching at the forest due to the lack of final boundary. The team leader said one Mr. Marrah is presently logging trees there and claimed that there is no buffer zone demarcation for now. He said in Kent, there is massive encroachment going on there at a daily basis.

The project demarcation called for a buffer zone where trees will be planted for the benefit of the community but it is not reflected so in Malama community. The team leader here, Kelfala Bangura said the people are claiming that the buffer zone is their property and they are presently battling to share it among themselves. He said that about 70% of land grabbing is going on in Malama adding that the community people has claimed that they will not come out from the bush and they are not prepared to learn  any other trade unless they sustain from the proceeds of the forest.

Some forest guards said due to their presence the encroachment rate and the logging has reduced but the only thing they need is for the demarcation pillars to be completed around the forest. Some also recommend for the project to make follow ups towards the recommendations they make.

In making recommendations and communiqué, the government of Sierra Leone representative at WAPFOR and also agro forestry officer, Mr. Bogba said the forestry department should jointly work with the lands ministry to discourage land grabbing in the western area peninsular forest reserve. He also said that forestry department and police partnership patrol which the minister of lands and the minister of forestry had agreed the last time at Sugar Loaf must be ensured and implemented to raid diamba farms in the forest.

Mr. Bogba said since most areas has got livelihood activities, there should be no more charcoal burning and other bad activities in the forest on the 1st of October 2011 and added that those who wish to made boat at John Obay must go through the forestry Director for permit.

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