Marcus’ recent visit to Sierra Leone provided valuable insights and tangible next steps for our reforestation programme through which we hope to make a truly transformative change to sustainability and economic development in Sierra Leone.
Following our visit, we are at the point of finalising our MOU with government departments to establish an agreement in principle for our programme proposal. We are now refining our plans for a feasibility study in the three identified districts of the Northern region, to be carried out alongside Dr Mathew Gboku, Director General at the Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI) and in consultation with Kew Gardens’ Africa team.
We are hugely grateful to colleagues at the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA) for their support in planning our itinerary and connecting us to a range of stakeholders, including government Ministers, government agencies, community leaders, parliamentarians, forestry officers, conservation workers, farm owners and farm workers.
SLIEPA has identified three districts; Kambia, Port Loko and Bombali, in which the programme will be focussed, which have all suffered extreme deforestation in recent years. During the visit, we were fortunate enough to be able to present our programme proposal to Paramount Chiefs (community leaders) in each district.
In our meetings, we set out our intentions to support local communities to move from subsistence to commercial farming. Through the programme we hope to provide the local community with investment in tools, seedlings/nursery facilities for both reforestation and the establishment of cashew and cotton crops.
The communities will be supported to form local cooperatives that legally safeguard all of their produce and crucially, RiSE will support the Value-Chain to enable the farmers’ produce to be exported on a large scale, thus facilitating the transition to sustainable commercial farming.
Meeting with the Paramount Chiefs was the first stage in the community engagement process and, with their approval, we hope to follow up with a full community consultation process, which will provide an opportunity for the local community members to outline their desires and define the improvements that they are seeking for the community as a whole.