By Allieu Sahid Tunkara
In 2019, Sierra Leone Government announced a tree-planting project to protect the environment throughout Sierra Leone especially the Western Area.
The move aims at planting about 5,000,000 (five million) trees throughout the country to safeguard an environment at the threshold of destruction.
In response to government’s pronouncement, several communities have been cultivating forest and fruit trees to ensure that the environment is safe.
But, the tree-planting project has not yielded the desired result. Most residents say the trees are not taken care of and they die naturally.
Government announcement in 2019 on the cultivation of forest trees is not the first in Sierra Leone.
Various projects tree-planting projects in communities have been undertaken by governments, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) and some civil society organisations to save the environment from depletion.
Such protects have been taken to most secondary schools in the country where pupils have been encouraged to cultivate forest trees, school gardens and orchards to make the environment green.
The projects are transient ones. They do not last as the trees are not t properly maintained.
Maforki community, in the North-western town of PortLoko, a town that emerged after the country’s civil war has seen several NGO’s planting forest trees to stop winds and also bring livelihood to the community through tree- planting projects.
But, those trees have faded away owing to lack of maintenance culture.
Today, the community is at risk to any wind that blows talk less of storms or thunderstorms that can strike at any time.
In some communities to where tree-planting projects have been taken, there seems to be some misunderstanding between the community and the NGO’s over the acquisition of land.
Most communities are inclined to selling the land to the NGO’s that want to plant trees while the NGO officials see the planting as a benefit to the community and should ownership.
Few exceptions occur in the acquisition of land especially at Mile-91 in Northern Sierra Leone where MAIRO company have planted a large number of forest trees through payment of surface rent to the land owners.
Some communities especially in Freetown and in the Western-Rural district have not taken those projects seriously.
Building of houses on land is the most preferred choice. The construction of houses, most times, is unregulated thereby rendering communities vulnerable to disasters.
The mudslide and flood disasters of 2017 serve as prominent and shining examples.
In Freetown, trees at Regent close to the Guma Dam have been indiscriminately cut down by those scrambling to construct houses.
The indiscriminate felling down of trees in communities officials say sometimes badly affects the annual rainfall.
Guma Valley Water Company, a body charged with the responsibility of providing water to various homes in the city runs a potent risk.
The shortage of rain as a result man’s activities constrains the work of Guma Valley Water Company in the provision of water services to the community.
The scramble for land for building purposes in Freetown has always been one of the main factors that create tension between the community and officials of government.
Environmentally destructive activities of builders are also visible in various communities where residents have embarked on felling of trees to build.
Jui and Kossoh Town communities in the Western Rural district also stand the risk of being destroyed owing to felling of trees for building purposes.
The builders, most times, do not seek permission from authorities to build in those communities.
As the building continues, the land is exposed to several dangers including erosion and leaching.
Thunderstorms are also rampant and can affect residents very badly. They pose untold damage in several communities where they have occurred and bound to occur in the future.
Certain communities in the provinces are also badly affected by the felling down of trees for building, coal burning and farming purposes.
The rush for survival by rural communities is an activity undertaken at the expense of the environment.
Sandama Gbolonthor chiefdom in Karene district, Northern Sierra Leone has been singled out as one of the communities where indiscriminate felling of trees for coal burning is rife.
Timber loggers also have a slice of their own in the destruction of the environment as forests to stop the winds when it blows are no more. They have been lost to timber loggers.
Government ban on logging has proved ineffective as the desire to make money is paramount more than the protection of the environment.
As the environment faces the risk of destruction, a local civil society known as Society for Climate Change (SFCC) in collaboration with School green club are planting trees in ten secondary schools in the Western Rural district.
The planting of the forest trees is a continuation of a tree-planting project the two organisations started last year.
The project is supported by Sierra Leone Poverty Alleviation Charitable Trust based in the United Kingdom.
The founder for SFCC, Mohamed Alfred Fornah told Nightwatch that the tree planting project was launched in July this year.
Communities such as Jui, Hastings, Coba Farm, Kossoh Town, Grafton and some surrounding communities would be targeted.
“Every month, we plant 100 trees in ten secondary schools in the Western Rural district. They are meant to protect the environment and mitigate the impact of climate change,” Fornah explained.
The tree-planting project, he said, would go indefinitely until they are satisfied that the communities have gone green.
Although he did not show an exact amount of trees to be planted, they are determined to plant as many trees as possible in schools and communities in Western Area Rural.
“We will not only plant forest trees in communities under the project, but also plant fruit trees such as Avocados, Cashew trees and oranges,” he assured.
The scramble for building purposes by residents in the Western Rural has not stopped Fornah who sound highly hopeful of a resounding success.