By Tamba Borbor
Welthungerhilfe (WHH), with support from Global Environment Facility (GEF), Manor River Union (MRU), National Protected Area Agency (NPPA), National Water Resources Management Agency (NWRMA) and IUCN on Wednesday 28th and 29th April 2021, during the implementation of the Mano River Union Ecosystem Conservation and International Water Resource Management Project, took over 20 Farmers from Pujehun District to Kailahun District, on a farming exchange visit and training workshop to impart more skill on farmers on Cocoa, economic and fruit trees production.
George Muigai, Project Manager Welthungerhilfe, whilst giving an overview of the project, said that Welthungerhilfe is one of Germany’s biggest private organizations for development and humanitarian aid, with the vision of ensuring that people are free from hunger and poverty. He said the Ecosystem Conservation and Water Resource Management Project is funded by (GEF), through the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to the Government of Sierra Leone – the National Protected Area Agency (NPPA).
Georg Muigai said the project is being implemented in the four Mano River Union countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast. He furthered that Welthungerhilfe is in partnership with NPPA to implement the project in three Districts in Sierra Leone: Kenema, Pujehun and Kailahun Districts, which are mainly located along the Gola rainforest belt.
George Muigai further explained that the project has made significant impact reaching out to a total of 1500 farmers as direct project beneficiaries, with a gender participation of 304 (20%)Females and 1,196 (80%)Males. George Muigai said the project provided support to protect against threats posed by climate change, deforestation caused by logging, mining, charcoal burning, game hunting and wildfire and unsustainable agricultural system, practiced by the forest edge communities. The project hopes to reclaim the deforested land by encouraging farmers to involve in the establishment of diverse crop production, using the agro-forestry farming techniques in the production areas.
He ended by saying that Sierra Leone stands to benefit so much from this Forest Landscape Restoration and Ecosystem Conservation project, adding that communities will be informed on the importance of natural resources and regaining the original state of the destroyed forest in the Gola Landscape. He said, supporting the 1500 farmers on the establishment of agro-forestry plots will result in the restoration of 1,150 acres(460 Ha) of land, although more effort is needed for reclaiming the already deforested land.
Mustapha O Sheriff, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of WHH said they targeted Pujehun District farmers to help them to engage in Agro-forestry system, wherein they can have different crops in one garden and still have a very good production, based on proper management system, in order to prevent deforestation and improve the livelihood of the communities. He stated that the Government of Sierra Leone has set out regulations limiting the activities of communities along the Gola rainforest belt. This, he said, will affect their livelihood, considering the fact that their main source of income comes from their forest activities.
He said the project implemented by WHH will support farmers to plant economic fruit trees and indigenous trees as a sustainable source of income generation, coupled with support in technical training of farmers in good Agricultural Practices (GAP) for sustainable Agricultural enhancement.
Sheriff stated that the Gola rainforest edge communities, especially Pujehun District, in the Makpele and Barri Chiefdoms, have mostly depended on forest products and oil palm farming, which has made little gains over the years, but the new farming from WHH will help them to invest in economic trees like cocoa and timber trees, which are in less practice in their region, even though these trees have proven to be a major economic source for Kailahun and Kenema Districts, with high yield in production rate, especially for cocoa, but Pujehun District was yet to practice climate sensitive agriculture, especially in the Gola forest region, which has been heavily deforested by unproductive agricultural activities, Mustapha said.
Tamba Gbondo, Kailahun District Coordinator (SLE 1087) for WHH, who served as the lead trainer, said he has organized a farm exchange visit for farmers from Pujehun district to Kailahun, through the support of GEF and NPAA, to make farmers knowledgeable in cocoa production and management in terms of reforestation and good agricultural practices.
This, he furthered, gives them the opportunity to visit well established cocoa production sites in Kailahun District, serving as essential good training and learning practical experiences during the visit. He stated that training workshop at the WHH office in Kenema was organized for the training of farmers, plus a participatory training approach with a question and answer session on key training topics from nursery establishment, management through planting and rehabilitation and quality processing, which eventually gives them the ability and confidence to pass on the knowledge to other farmers who do not have the opportunity.
l Barrie, Technical Adviser, Ecosystem Conservation project, GEF (the Ecosystem Conservation project), which is the Mano River Union Ecosystem conversation and International Water Resources Project, is being implemented among four countries: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast and funded by GEF, with the aim of reversing or addressing the various manmade climate threats that contribute to the degradation of the forest, especially in the upper Guinea, with activities like unsustainable Agricultural farming methods, Farming, slash and burn, logging, mining, charcoal burning, over hunting and wild life trade.
Abdul Barrie stated that the project has two main components, one on sustainable forest Management, which is being implemented by WHH in the goal land space, which is the only bulk reserve left in the region, with a national park, but is also exposed to destruction, because lots of people are around and mainly depend there for their survival, so the project prevents the park and impacts the lives of those living around, and depend on it for survival,
He furthered that GEF is trying to restore the degraded forest, and this is the reason why they are working with partners like WHH, who are doing a fantastic job, and GOLA, with other consultants like Green lives, who are also implementing partners, targeting the forest, which is the first part of the component.
Barrie continued that all the four countries have agencies that are leading the fight, and in Sierra Leone, it is the National Protected Area Authority (NPAA) and National Water Resource Management Agency (NWRMA), the two agencies work together based on the fact that the project in component is one on sustainable forest management and the other on management of international water, which is the main focus of the (NWRMA), with the aim of using the trans boundary water resource, and work with trans boundary neighbouring countries to collaboration in preventing conflicts around the use of water within the boundaries, so the project is aimed at working as local and international partners to manage the water resources, which will prevent conflict, help in managing trans boundary issues.
Barrie said WHH is mainly implementing the reforestation, which is landscape restoration (FLR) with the focus on restoring the landscape, which targets the communities, animals and forest, so the people will benefit from the landscape forest and see the need to preserve and stay away from the protected forest.
He said the project is a very forest friendly agriculture, which is Agro-forestry aimed at bringing back the forest and restoring wildlife.
He however commended WHH for providing the expertise and for working with women and the targeted groups in the implementation process.
One of the beneficiaries, Fatmata Koroma, said the training is a lifetime opportunity given to them by WHH through NPAA and GEF, and asked for more women to be considered in other projects. “We felt lost, marginalized when the Government asked us to stay away from the forest, because we thought that is our only means of survival, but with this new skills and support given to us by WHH through NPAA and GEF on farming, we are now poised to live a better life than before.”
Alhaji Bockrie said he has been in cocoa production for a little over five years now, but have not been realizing much, because of missing steps from the nursing to the harvesting period. He, however, said that he has learnt so much from this important training organized by WHH through NPAA and GEF. He thanked WHH and requested for regular training.