Sustainable land management helps restore livelihoods in Sierra Leone

 Samuel's beekeeping land
REFORESTED LAND IN MAKOTH VILLAGE IS NOW IDEAL FOR SAMUEL KOROMA’S BEEKEEPING (UNDP/A.K. BAH)

Severe land degradation, caused by the unsustainable use of forest resources, slash-and-burn farming methods and wildfires that destroy crops has resulted in the loss of productive agricultural areas, low productivity of agricultural land, diminishing food security, the deterioration of water and natural resources, reduced output from forest resources and increased vulnerability to disasters in Sierra Leone. This has negatively impacted on the livelihoods of communities and has also had serious implications for health and nutrition status.

For many of the villagers in Makoth village, northern Sierra Leone, the dry season used to bring with it large outbreaks of bush fires with severe consequences for the community. Now there is a new hope for the future.  

“To prevent fires, we have planted palm trees, cassava crops, cashew, oranges and mangoes. This has prevented our crops from the fire disasters which used to destroy our crops, leading to hunger and poverty.  When it’s green, it will benefit me, my children and the whole community. Now we are even doing beekeeping for honey, and when the honey starts to flow, it’s more money and food for me and the family. We also eat the fruits and sell some. The whole community has benefited a lot…now we can fetch fuel-wood easily without having to burn the forest and in the process degrade the land for agriculture.” said Samuel Koroma, fire monitor and beneficiary in Makoth village, Bombali district in northern Sierra Leone.

Highlights

  • A total of 60 acres of degraded land was regenerated with support from the project in Bombali district, benefitting 5,000 people in 35 villages
  • 60 village fire monitors were trained in fire prevention, forest management and alternative livelihood options
  • A National Action Plan to combat desertification was developed and integrated into sectoral plans of the Ministry of Works, Housing and Infrastructure, the Ministry of Lands, Environment and Country Planning the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, amongst others

With support from UNDP and the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Sierra Leone and Sierra Leone’s Environment Protection Agency developed a mainstreaming strategy and action plan involving the creation of community land use maps and manuals for selected communities and piloted sustainable land management sites in Bombali district.

The Sustainable Land Management project support has allowed Sierra Leone to develop individual, institutional and systemic capacities to improve planning and efforts to address land degradation and ensure that sustainable land management considerations are incorporated into national policies and to mitigate land degradation and meet the country’s obligations under the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

As a result of the launch of the pilot site for sustainable land use, communities have learned how to better manage, replicate and adapt community-based natural forest management models that include experiments on alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture.

The Executive Director of Sierra Leone’s Environment Protection Agency, Hadijatou Jallow, said support from UNDP has helped, using participatory methods, the development and completion of a National Action Plan and the mainstreaming of sustainable land management into policies, laws and budgets.

A community-based forest and fire management law has been developed and a curriculum integrating sustainable land management has been rolled out to schools and universities.

Deputy Country Director Mohamed Abchir said communities have benefitted immensely from the land restoration project. “It has helped the communities meet some of their fuel-wood needs without burning the forests and thereby degrading the quality of land for agriculture. The project has also provided fire belts to prevent communities and their crops being devastated by outbreaks of bush fires.”

It is estimated that 5,000 people in 35 villages have benefitted from the Sustainable Land Management project in northern Sierra Leone. 60 villagers received support from the project to become trained fire monitors, skilled in fire prevention and management to mitigate the risk of future incidents. Through the support, Aaternative livelihoods have also been created for many villagers who have utilized the reforested areas to engage in beekeeping and fruit tree nursery activities for small-scale commercial production.  

 “The project has been of immense value to our community across the Gbanti-Kamaranka Chiefdom. As a farmer myself I was suffering. Out of 10 bushels of rice I cultivated last season, I was only able to harvest 16 bushels of rice instead of the 25 bushels I was expecting. This project is helping us get more yields, but more importantly, it is helping us preserve the land for the future generations as land is our greatest asset – if it is destroyed now, what can we bequeath to our children?” said Paramount Chief of Gbendembu, Kandeh Baba Keha III.

With the increasing scarcity of land in Sierra Leone due to economic and industrial activity, sustainable land management has become critical to communities to help minimize land degradation, rehabilitate degraded areas and ensure the optimal use of land resources for the benefit of present and future generations.