A future of surprises: Why addressing Climate Change matters in Sierra Leone

January 12, 2019 Off By StandardTimes Newspaper

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya:

Yealiboya Island is situated along the North-West of Sierra Leone. According to Pa Hassan Sesay, the Community is comprised of about 1000 inhabitants who mainly depend on fish as their main source of livelihood to support their families here. By the time of my arrival on the Island through a speed boat from Kychom, there are already many Community members returning from their daily fishing activities. “The catch is not as it used to be in the past” one of the youths, Sorie explains to me.

As I walked through the Yealiboya Island, I discovered the Island is sinking. The location of the Island at a low lying level is a disadvantage for residents here. The Chief showed me and explained how big was the island but at a faster rate, it keeps decreasing thereby leaving them on the middle with nowhere to escape in case of major natural disaster.

The effect of Climate Change is visibly clear in the country. Just like the shores along the Lakka Beach where many houses have been destroyed due to sea level rise, here in Konakridee along the Coast, there are many structures that have been destroyed as well by the regular hitting waves of the sea. Like in Plantain Island and Konakridee, I can see stumps of mangrove trees from the afar and big bags that are filled with sand along the banks of the sinking island. Apparently, these are bags filled and used as barriers by the Locals as one of the adaptation measures applied here to help prevent the forces of the waves from the high seas.

A tree that has faced the impact of climate change in Konakridee

Their barriers continue to temporarily help some houses not to be washed away by the trends of the waves. There were many big trees around the Konakridee and Yealiboya Island. But ninety five (95%) percent of the tree that people use to see here had all been washed away by the recurrent waves and high tides. For now, only stumps and fallen trees are visible to everyone. Pa Hassan called on the government to assist with mangrove trees to plant around the shores of their Community in other to help serve as barrier to the unprecedented waves.

The effects of Climate Change are very real here in Konakridee and Yourayka. For decades, there were a Hotel in Yourayka and a Presidential Resort in Konakridee that were once used as residences by both President Siaka P Stevens of Sierra Leone and President Sheku Toure of Guinea. According to research from Elders and Experts, even the preparation for the formation of the Mano River Union was first discussed here.

Today, all these memories have been lost. Both the Hotel in Yourayka and the Presidential Report in Konakridee are now lost glories to the sea. The locals I contacted in the village cannot identify where these past glories were once located as the sea level continues to chase the Communities through the banks. Pa Hassan Sesay is an elder in Konakridee. He said “every year we keep moving from one place to another”, apparently running from the approaching sea level.

Mr. Bockarie reaffirmed “if people can remember for Sierra Leone in particular looking at Konakridee and Yourayka there used to be a hotel and Presidential Report in these places and these places are no more due to sea level rise. And if you look around the Coast there are many infrastructural damage caused by Climate Change”. According to Mr. Bockarie, “the Hotel in Yourayka was a rural environment used by those people who have interest in games and had stayed here for a week or more with a pristine environment” but all these beautifies have been lost due to Climate Change.

Mr. Foday Melvin Kamara is a local entrepreneur who established the Fomel and Industries and National Industrialization Center (FINNIC) and is utilising the vitalities of the youths to transform agricultural waste/residues into clean fuel for kitchens to replace the charcoal which is inflicting a colossal and irreparable damage to the forests. He said “the enormity of agricultural by-products we have, if transformed into briquettes, no tree will be cut for the purpose of processing fuel for our kitchens”.

Mr. Kamara believes in Climate Change matters,such issues should “occupy a huge space in our curriculum from kindergarten stage to Tertiary level and certain aspects considered irrelevant to our situation must be dropped to create space for important and most relevant climate change aspects”.

In February 16, 2014, the United States’ Secretary of States, John Kerry while delivering a speech on Climate Change to a group of students in Jakarta warned Indonesians that “man-made Climate Change could threaten their entire way of life, deriding those who doubted the existence of perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction”.

As evidenced in Konakridee and Yealiboya, Climate Change need urgent action from any countries and individuals. According to Mr. Bockarie, “if we do not take action, Climate Change will be a catastropheto us because the climate has no political boundary and this is why international people recognize that this not a one man problem and solution”.

The Executive Director for the Climate Change Forum Network, Amara Salam Kanu believes “the best way to tackle Climate Change in the country is to enhance collaboration among all sectors of the society”.

There have been international efforts towards tackling Climate Change in the world. Sierra Leone is a member of the Kyoto Protocol which establishes the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and commits states to tackle Climate change by reducing greenhouse gases emissions.

In December of any year, member nations meet to discuss best ways to tackle Climate Change in the world.In December last year, State Parties converged in Paris and “sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C”.

Knowing that Sierra Leone now ranks the 3rd most vulnerable country to climate change in the world, according to the 2013 Maplecroft Index (Maplecroft 2013), and seeing that we already have a felt sense of the situation, the country is certainly tipped for a ‘future of surprises’, when many of the today’s predictions will happen, especially if our capacity to adapt and respond remains the same. Thus, we are all challenged by a growing crisis that we must address to save the spaces in which we live and recreate, but this will require extended investments and interventions targeting those affected by current outcomes, those at the most risk to future surprises, shocks and disturbances, and those not too exposed to risk, but who might need a shift in knowledge, attitudes and practices to knock off the effects of their actions and relationships. As an environmental journalist, I believe that whereas climate change presents a future of surprises, it is exactly what we must fear to act today to save current and future generations.

This report was produced and published with the support and fellowship of the United States Embassy in Freetown