Caritas Freetown Launches Groundbreaking Conservation Livelihood Project in Western Area National Park

The delicate balance between human livelihoods and environmental conservation has been a huge challenge in Sierra Leone.

Caritas Freetown, in partnership with CSSL and funding partner CAFOD, launched the “Piloting Integrated Livelihood and Conservation Approaches around Western Area Peninsular National Park” on the 13th of April 2024 at the Aberdeen Community Center.

The overall goal is to strengthen conservation and promote environmentally sustainable livelihood opportunities that will improve the well-being of vulnerable local communities while actively conserving the threatened ecosystem.

This project inception/ launch activity attracted different stakeholders in the Aberdeen Community and its coastal catchment communities (Kolleh Town and Cockle Bay), such as the Ward Councilor, Chiefs, CDMC comminity Chairperson, Religious Leaders, Youth and Women’s group leaders, community stakeholders, and a representative from different women’s groups engaged in agricultural activities from the different communities.

Government line agencies and other partners organizations such as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Protection Area Authority (NPAA), YAMSAL, Conservation Society Sierra Leone (CSSL), Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), and CAN were also present to witness the occasion.

“One of the expected outcomes of this project is to increase awareness in the targeted communities concerning linkages between conservation and livelihoods to improve economic and environmental benefits; produce evidence-based knowledge findings on the knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) contributing positively or negatively to the ecosystem, and identification of alternative sustainable conservation livelihoods of the population, and Promote improved conservation and management through the restoration of at least 5 hectares of degraded habitats, capacity building, and support the implementation of climate resilient livelihood initiatives in the Aberdeen Community” said the Project Manager – Idriss Gibson Mansaray as he explained the project overview. He continued that the project is just a pilot phase with a lifespan of 7 months, and mentions some of the main activities to be undertaken including the establishment or strengthening of school nature clubs that would champion awareness raising campaigns on environmental conversation, climate change mitigation and adaptation in schools, livelihood support to women engaged in agriculture, the planting of 2500 mangroves and 250 economic trees, the airing of jingle in different languages to disseminate the project’s key messages far and wide in the Western Area Districts and beyond, and the provision of IEC materials.

Different statements were given by the invited government line agencies and organizations in which they commended the initiative taken by Caritas Freetown and its partners to address the dual objectives of economic empowerment and environmental conservation.

The representative from CAN – Mohamed Vandi Kamara based his statement on the essence of environmental conservation to address the adverse effect of climate change and said “We must take care of the environment before the environment takes care of us”.

The representative from NPAA – Mr Koroma started his speech by endorsing the project and said NPAA plays a vital role in preserving biodiversity and maintaining ecological balance and commended the project’s emphasis on integrating conservation efforts with livelihood enhancement strategies.

He ended his statement by saying engaging local communities as stewards of their natural heritage can ensure the long-term sustainability of the project and the healthy growth of the economic trees and mangroves.

“Environmental sustainability is a cornerstone of our agency’s mission, and we wholeheartedly support initiatives that seek to harmonize human activities with ecosystem preservation,” said the representative from the EPA -Mr. Henry David Bayoh.

The project implementing partner CSSL representative Mr. Edward Sesay gave a brief background of their organization and its extensive work on conservation.

He mentioned similar work that has been undertaken in different communities and highlighted the successes and challenges that faced implementing similar projects.

He gave an insight on the project development and emphasized the importance of planting mangroves and its numerous benefits to the ecosystem, biodiversity and the natural habitat.

He informed the stakeholders that CSSL would be implementing the same project in Big Water Community.

He ended his statement by encouraging the stakeholders to actively participate in the implementation process and serve as watchdogs for the planted mangroves and economic trees for them to grow successfully.

Mr. Sahr Edison Borbor – Programme Officer – Governance & Livelihood of the funding partner CAFOD in his statement explained the vision and mission of CAFOD and explained safeguarding and SADI which mean safety, access, dignity, and inclusion.

He said the project would be implemented in line with SADI and ensure the community stakeholders that the implementing partners will be held accountable if they go against CAFOD safeguarding principles or fail to apply Safety Access Dignity and Inclusive Participation (SADI) in its implementations.

The stakeholders from the different communities were delighted with the project implementation in their communities. Councillor Bangura of the Aberdeen community was thrilled to witness the commencement of the project.

“This initiative holds immense promise for our residents, as it not only seeks to enhance our livelihood opportunities but also underscores our collective responsibility to protect and conserve our natural environment.”

The representative from Cockle Bay Community emphasized the importance of a community participatory approach as they have understood every detail of the project implementation and what it entails.

He said they have women engaged in agriculture and wetland for the planting of mangroves, they can’t wait to enjoy the impact of the project.

The representative from Kolleh Town expressed how confident he was that the project would thrive in his community.

He said they have the structure and space available from the planting of mangroves, and they have the experience working on such projects in their community.

He continues that they have community bylaws that organizations would work with and the activity of the project to review existing conservation bylaws would be great to properly shape what they already have.

The project inception meeting served as a pivotal platform for stakeholders to come together, align their visions, and chart a course for the successful implementation of the “Piloting Integrated Livelihood and Conservation Approaches project”.

The constructive discussions and shared commitment demonstrated during the meeting bode well for the project’s future success in fostering sustainable development and environmental conservation in the community.

The inception/project launch ended with stakeholders getting buy-in into the project and pledging to actively participate in the project implementation to achieve ownership of the project and its sustainability.

The line government agencies and organizations agreed to actively collaborate with the project team whenever needed for the project to achieve its deliverables in the Aberdeen Community.

Author: Abu Bakarr Jalloh

Abu Bakarr Jalloh is a Sierra Leonean content writer, author, Neo Pan-African and founder of The African Dream, an online platform for inspiring, positive and compelling African stories. Contact: WhatsApp: +23276211583

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