eg Mobile Peace Team Activity in Sierra Leone

Date: October 11, 2021

By: Mulbah Richard, Mahawa Komala. Boakai M. Kromah, and Benedict Knuckles


Introduction

On October 5 and 6, the Voinjama team headed by Mulbah Richard and Boakai Kromah visited Foya, and Koindu Sierra Leone for a peace-meeting and environmental outreach. The goal of the trip was to raise awareness on the importance of forest landscape management and the need for us to continue to promote peace and stability within the regions- Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. We had full attendance with participants from the three mentioned countries in total of 44 people. The purpose of the peace talk was to identify and discuss things we have in common and what makes us different as people and countries. And the goal of the environmental outreach was to identify, interact and understand the current status of our environment and our role in curtailing the challenges we face within our environment.


Below are the meeting objectives:

✓ To identify and discuss challenges our communities continue to face;

✓ To provide opportunities for local stakeholders to interact and identify the current status of our environment and how we can prepare;

✓ To understand and strengthen our collaboration with key actors to prevent environmental degradation.


Foya

Tamba D. Flomo, eg focal person in collaboration with the Paramount Chief of Foya, Mr. Momo Taylor and the community secured a site for our nursery. When the team arrived on October 5, we visited and cleaned the site offered to us. We collected reefs from a nearby swamp and palm thatches for the nursery. We dug soil from a dumpsite to fill in the polythene bags. For a start, we have hundred trees on nursery. We filled in additional hundred bags and will add five-hundred in the coming weeks. We added 10 signs of cotton trees to the nursery. The signs were collected from a bush around the site. One of the community members volunteered to water and add more seedlings to what we already have. We spent hours setting-up the site and filling in the polythene bags with the help from Mr. Flomo, the Youth Chairman, and the Community.



Koindu

We left for Koindu the same day we arrived to Foya. Mulbah drove us through carefully on a very bad road. We arrived at 6pm. The team was warmly welcomed and received by our host, Mr. Oren Tamba James, eg focal person in Koindu, Sierra Leone. Some of the participants lodged at a guest house in the heart of Koindu while others lodged at Free Pentecostal Junior and Secondary School’s guest house. While heading to Koindu, we noticed how the savanna is rapidly encroaching due to deforestation, logging and unsustainable farming practices. It is the same as Foya. Savanna biome is home to wild and endangered species, but the rate of encroachment is alarming, and it might alter ecosystem functions in the region.


Early the next day, Mr. Oren James arranged for the team to meet with students of Free Pentecostal Junior and Secondary school to talk about everyday gandhis activities in peace-building and environmental conservation. Mulbah spoke briefly on the history and programs of everyday gandhis and Mahawa talked about the upcoming environmental and reforestation initiative we intend to embark on in Koindu. We spent 20 mins with the students during devotion and we made a pledge of two sets of jerseys and two footballs for the school team. We also encouraged some of the students to join eg during our trees-planting exercise next year.


After our engagement with the students, we assembled at the residence of Chief Jusu, the traditional head of Koindu, Kalahun District for the peace and environmental dialogue. Participants arrived by 8am and we signed in the attendance log while awaiting the arrival of our representatives from Guinea. They arrived at 9am. We had breakfast from 9-9:30am and started the dialogue at 9:40. The discussion started with self-introduction by everyone in order to know and get acquainted with each other’s name, where we are from and the institutions we represent. It was followed by welcome remarks by the Town Chief of Koindu, Chief. Tamba Mbayoh. Chief Mbayoh extended his greetings and excitement for such a dialogue and his hope for a successful Eg staff and senior staff of Free Pentecostal program. We were opportune to have Mr. John Tamba Focko as translator for the dialogue. He translated from Kiss to English and English to Kissi. And It was fascinating.


After the chief’s remarks, Boakai Kromah introduced eg staff and its focal persons in Foya and Koindu stating their role and responsibilities.


Mulbah Richard provided the overview and history of everyday gandhis and our work in Liberia with emphasis on the Dream-Cycle, perma-culture, traditional program, environmental program, and eg scholarship scheme.


Mr. Tamba D. Flomo talked about the Rationale and purpose of the Dialogue outlining who we are, why we are here and what we can do to maintain the peace we already have and protect the trees in our environment. He asked a question: what makes us different as people from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and what are our similarities? Table below are the responses gathered from the participants:



What make us different?

What are our similarities?

  • Our laws and regulations (Direct and indirect ruling system)

  • We speak kissi, Mandingo and Lorma

  • Sierra Leone and Guinea deal with the direct ruling system while Liberia deals with the indirect

  • Inter-marriages

  • Our days of colonization- Liberia was colonized by the ASC; Guinea colonized by the French; and Sierra Leone by the British

  • Our acceptance, Unity and togetherness Some cultural beliefs like early marriages, FGM and Polygamy ​

  • Our Food

  • Education system

  • Our beliefs, culture, norms and tradition

  • The rule of law

  • Our geographical demarcation

  • Dress code and

  • Our language, tribes and dialects

Mahawa started her presentation (dialogue) by asking about some environmental threats they have seen/or identify in their countries or communities. They mentioned these environmental threats:

  • Deforestation and its contributing factors like Wild fire and human settlement

  • Erratic rainfall since 2017

  • Unsustainable logging practices

  • Hunting for commercial purposes

  • Char-coal burning / Production

  • Shifting cultivation


During the dialogue, the Commanding Officer of Koindu, Mr. Sahr Yokie Sengu said that one of the factors that’s leading to deforestation is the cutting down of trees for charcoal production. He also mentioned that he’s noticed the constant appearance of Buffalo and other wildlife in Koindu, and it is happening because their habitats have been destroyed. The wild animals are destroying the crops and farms of nearby towns and villages, which has been going on for a while.


Chairlady of the youth from Guinea, Elisabette Mara said that unsustainable logging is one of the leading causes of deforestation in Guinea. And the head of delegation from Guinea, Mr. Fayah Hilla said they have been experiencing erratic rainfall since 2017 and it has been affecting farming activities in the region.


The traditional leaders of Koindu raised a serious concern about the youth of Africa, especially west Africa. They said young people do not respect their tradition and culture. When the youth are told not to encroach on reserved forest, not to cut down trees and abide by the rules governing community forest, they don’t listen and sometimes refused to follow what they were told. And their action is leading to deforestation.


The OPS of Koindu recommended that the youth, women, traditional leaders and everyone to come together to protect the forest from deforestation if we have future generations to have access to available natural resources.


Mahawa continued by asking the way forward in addressing these threats with importance on our roles in minimizing the impacts and effects of deforestation and its resulting land degradation. We came up with the following:

  • Support sustainable agriculture programs

  • Run a mini reforestation/ afforestation program in effected towns and communities

  • Enact laws and regulations on planting 10 trees when you cut down a single tree

  • Have a reserved bush/ forest in all forested communities

  • Reserve bush around river bands

  • People should be fined/ punished when the breach forest conservation laws

  • Establish a committee on sensitization

  • Draft a bi-laws on governing community forest

  • We all should desist from cutting down trees and serve as agents of change in our various communities

  • The Fight to restore and conserve our environment should be our own fight.


After the dialogue, the team proceeded to Mr. Oren residence, where we set-up another nursery as we did in Foya. We have hundred trees on nursery and filled in additional 100 polythene bags and Mr. Oren assured us of getting seedlings for the additional hundred bags by next week.


Conclusion

The dialogue was successful and well attended with participants from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone including eg staff and focal persons from Foya and Koindu. We achieved our objectives of identifying and discussing the challenges we continue to face in our community and how we can maintain the peace and stability we already have. And we succeeded in securing nurseries in Koindu and Foya.




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