On Friday 12th March 2021, the Youth Action for Relentless Development Organization Sierra Leone (YARDO-SL) successfully launched the project titled:
PROMOTION OF INNOVATIVE LAND USE MAPPING AND REFORESTATION OF ENCROACHED AREAS OF THE GUMA DAM WATER CATCHMENT THROUGH COMMUNITY-LED ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP.
The launching took place at the number two (2) river community in the Western Rural district, a community being ear-marked as one of the catchment areas to be reforested. The launching was done in the presence of the organization’s partners like the Ministry of Environment, National Water Resource Management Agency, National Protected Area Authority, Freetown City Council, Ministry of Lands, Guma Valley Water Company, and community stakeholders (the ward councilor, headman, women’s leader, youth leader, etc.).
According to the Executive Director of YARDO-SL, Mr. Ahmid C. Jalloh, the project is funded by UNDP, under the GEF Small Grant Program. This project applies a holistic multi-stakeholder engagement and community-led approach to undertake its activities that include: the training of 150 young people in the community that will later serve as environmental youth corps, physical demarcation on the green belt, planting of 10,000 trees for reforestation purpose, and the training of young people especially women on vegetable production as an alternative source of livelihood as opposed to the massive deforestation of the water catchment for the purpose of charcoal production. fHe further explained the importance of the project and stating what the key activities of the project are, laying more emphasis on the benefit the community is going to derive from this project as one of the key activities of the project is to train 150 young people from within the community. He added by explaining to the community people how the trees planting activity is going to look like and the importance of trees. He also urged the community people to take ownership of this project as the project is a community-led stewardship project.
Mr. Abdulrahman Sannoh, the National Coordinator of the UNDP GEF Small Grant Program, spoke on the relevance of the project, especially in the Number Two community. He threw light on how the UNDP GEF small grant operates in Sierra Leone and that YARDO-SL is among twelve (12) other organizations that were awarded this grant to working on different thematic areas of environmental sustainability intervention. In his closing, he urged the community people to actively participate with YARDO-SL to implement this all-important project as this is the first time for YARDO-SL to receive or to be awarded this grant.
Engineer Abu Bakarr Kamara from the National Water Resource Management Agency, spoke on their mandate at the agency and also laid emphasis on the green belt area, according to him, the agency is working in partnership with the Catholic Relief Service(CRS) to demarcate the green belt zone for the protection of the water catchment areas. He further stated that the agency will continue its partnership with YARDO-SL to protect the water catchment and they will work collaboratively with YARDO-SL to ensure that there is a successful outcome of this project.
The community Headman, Mr. Joseph Jalloh, started by thanking YARDO-SL for choosing his community for this particular project and that he is happy for such moves, he further raised concerns that even though the Guma Dam is in their community, they don’t have a regular supply of pipe-borne water and other basic social amenities in their community, he calls on government to look into their demise.
The councilor of Ward-388 also threw light on what the Headman said about the lack of social amenities in the community and that he is happy for such a project to be undertaken in his ward. He also spoke on the green belt zone and according to him, he has the pillars that will be used for the demarcation and those pillars are at his residence. However, he appeals to the government to ensure there is the provision of land to the community for structures such as markets and schools before the final demarcation is to be made. He said, if the government meets their demands, it will inspire the community to collectively work together to protect the reserve forest which houses the Guma Dam.
The occasion was witnessed by many other partners and stakeholders who also spoke on the importance of planting trees and acting collaboratively for the effective protection of our water sources, for the benefit of all.
In his closing remark, the Executive Director of YARDO-SL stated clearly that, the project will serve as a remedial solution to the rampant deforestation and this will be done through awareness-raising, capacity building, and provision of alternative livelihoods, and also the reforestation of the deforested water catchment areas. He calls on the number two community and all other stakeholders to continue to act together so that we can achieve our shared interest in protecting our environment.