Impact of timber logging in Koinadugu and Falaba – government must act now

Alusine Bah (Young P): Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 May 2021:

Once upon a time Koinadugu and Falaba were among districts known as the breadbasket of Sierra Leone. Because of their propensity to attract people from different parts of the country, they were also known as “the land of powerful mixtures” and “the land of milk and honey” respectively.

Suffice it to say that those qualities that gave the two districts such names, have over the years slowly been erased as human activities evolved in the region. The two districts have started losing their value in agricultural production, cultural heritage, and change of the beautiful weather conditions.

Koinadugu and Falaba have been two of the biggest contributors to the total volume of honey produced in the country each year. Musaia town, a chiefdom town closer to Kabala is renowned for honey production. People have been coming from all over the country as well as USA, and other parts of the world to get this honey for all sorts of purposes.

But honey production here has significantly declined thereby resulting in scarcity of honey and low income for those who had relied on honey as a source of their bread and butter.

Speaking to people from these twin districts, it goes without saying that there is a direct correlation between logging of the gbeni tree, reduced honey production and low income because the gbeni tree is the breeding ground of the bees.

Other visible effects of timber logging in the twin districts of Kabala and Falaba are visibly evident in the slow production of crops, the slow killing of our beautiful vegetation, challenges in the contemporary farming system, bad weather conditions, road accidents, and drug abuse that have stolen many lives in Koinadugu and Falaba today.

Kabala was once known as the Europe of Sierra Leone, especially around the months of December and January of the year, when temperatures would fall to zero centigrade or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

This cool beautiful weather was due to the untouched trees and vegetation, landscape, and mountains. The rampant logging of trees has seen the exposure of vegetation to an extent that the beautiful cold weather that was once enjoyed in the region is slowly disappearing, year after year.

Koinadugans and Falabaians are proud of the beautiful nature they were gifted with. Examples include, Lake Sonfon, Mount Bintumani and the Wara Wara hills. All these places used to be very attractive tourist destination in Sierra Leone. They attracted tourists from USA, Europe and other parts of the world.

This also contributed to the economy of the country and the life of the people in the region. Slowly the destruction of our forests, and natural habitats have gradually seen less and less tourist activities in Kabala and Falaba.

Legend has it that a while ago, leopards, lions, zebras, elephants and other wildlife could be found in Koinadugu District. The constant gradual logging of the natural vegetation has over the years seen these animals endangered and becoming extinct.
The rate at which the famous Gbeni tree is decimated in Koinadugu and Falaba districts is alarming. Something needs to be done. There is something very worrying about the rate at which “gbeni” trees are being transported out of Koinadugu and Falaba.

It is rumoured that a certain Chinese tycoon wants them desperately for expensive furniture in China. Over five to six years now, millions of timbers have been shipped out of Sierra Leone more especially, from Koinadugu and Falaba Districts.

According to checkpoint sources at Gbere Junction and elsewhere, more than 40 trucks/trailers leave Koinadugu daily, loaded with “gbeni” logs for Freetown to be shipped out of the country.

Does anyone in Government care about this broad daylight plunder of the vegetation that makes Koinadugu’s weather unique? Why are our authorities silent on this very important matter?

Are the sons and daughters of Koinadugu not worried about the desertification of our district? Some of us are worried because the future of our beloved districts is at a big risk. This is troubling.

If I may ask, where is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in all of this? Please save our forests in Koinadugu and Falaba, and Sierra Leone as a whole.

Tropical forests are the most important element in the global eco-system. Tropical forests are at the heart of infrastructural developments in Rwanda, Ghana, Senegal to name but a few, offering a wide range of ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration, moderation of air and water quality, as well as acting as biodiversity hotspots.

The dominant narrative is that Sierra Leone was once almost completely covered in forest but that the deforestation has been rapid and extreme, especially in the last ten years when the Government opened the floodgate to the export of raw, unprocessed timber to China and Europe.

More so, research shows that the greatest loss of forest is that of the Tonkolili Forest which has almost entirely disappeared. Koinadugu and Falaba will soon face this same challenge.

All forests are under threat right now, with the northern region and some parts of the Eastern region forests under severe pressure from uncontrolled logging. This is not good for our nation, generation yet unborn will suffer the consequence. Luckily, in the south-east, the Gola Forest has legal protection, and this is what we want to see in every part of Sierra Leone.

Sadly, the Loma Forest which is located in the northern part of Sierra Leone is to some extent protected by the poor road infrastructure and uninviting terrain making commercial exploitation unviable.

With the country reported to have less than 5% forest cover left, the last national forest inventory was in 1975. A great deal of this could be done with remote sensing.

A new national forest inventory will first need to determine: What decisions are expected to be made using the data (for example, allocation of land for industrial-scale plantation above-ground round biomass for compliance with REDD+, examining policies to improve resilience to rapid climate change, biodiversity condition assessment of protected areas, etc.).

Deforestation which is the permanent destruction of the land or trees should become a priority development issue for the central Government, local council, and paramount chiefs. Typically, deforestation is clearing a lot of trees without the intention of establishing future growth.

In Canada and America, all areas harvested must be reforested either by replanting or through natural regeneration. Regenerating forests should become part of the country’s agricultural development plan; given that forestry includes planting of economic fruit trees, charcoal trees, etc., holds the potential to bring hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy; as well as provide thousands of new jobs.

Forests are vital to our human survival. Trees purify our air, filter our water, prevent erosion, and act as a buffer against climate change. They offer a home to plant and animal species while also providing natural resources such as medicine, food, timber, and fuel. Millions of rural dwellers live in forests.

In terms of Climate Change, forests are essentially the lungs of our planet. All plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Thus, when a forest is cut down, the humidity levels decrease and cause the remaining plants to dry out, as well as increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Removing trees thins the forest canopy which is meant to block sun rays during the day and holds in the heat at night. This damaging disruption leads to extreme temperature swings that are harmful to plants and animals. Many animals, insects, and plants lose their habitats and become endangered and even go extinct.

In conclusion, the importance of the argument that Government should formulate short, medium and long term comprehensive National Afforestation Plan that will not only protect the remaining forest cover but help to grow new ones in mitigating against climate change, cannot be stressed enough.

My recommendation is to form an organisation that will help sensitise authorities concerned. We need to help save the future of our land in Koinadugu and Falaba and in Sierra Leone as a whole.

About the author

Alusine Bah, is a Third Year Sociology Anthropology Honours Student at the Njala University in Sierra Leone.

5 Comments

  1. This is an excellent and very timely exposé on the environmental nightmare to which the people of Koinadugu and Falaba have been subjected. It unmasks the callousness and rapacity of those involved in stripping bare large swathes of our God-given woodlands for export purposes. And it is a great shame that over the years, those who govern us have either turned a blind eye to the devastation being caused or are complicit in it.

    The author’s moving evocation of the changes in climate resulting from this disaster shows his deep attachment to his region of origin and its people. His articulacy regarding their woes and his insistence on the need for adequate measures to hold in check the unfolding tragedy constitute a testament to that attachment.

    I hope Bio and his government out of genuine love of country, will heed the message Mr Bah is sending to us all and will do whatever it takes to save our country from the ravages of wilful environmental destruction. The apocalyptic scenes of floods and mudslides in the Western Area in recent years should be a warning of what lies in store for us as a country if a stop is not put right away to this wanton destruction of our natural habitat.

  2. Gentlemen – What else should a Patriot do to get the attention of a hopeless, lackadaisical, impractical government that always keeps on guessing what the best decisions are for our struggling impoverished nation desperately trying to ascend to the peaks of Everest from the abysmal depths of perplexing barrenness? The Sierra Leone Telegraph under the watchful
    gaze of Hon. Abdul Rashid Thomas has been a loud Trumpet with a fierce, uncompromising sound that has been attracting the attentions of a gullible, naive people desperately looking for credible answers to the endless problems they are confronted with on a daily basis.

    The Premium articles that this news outlet offers its readers are informative and exceptional beyond what words can ever describe; It is on this glorious forum that I was able to see men and women who didn’t hesitate to call things as they are. Some resourceful writers like Mr Bah the author of this invaluable article have been able to use a careful selection of words to play a few hands at once. Bravo! But before moving an inch further I would like the writer to know that whenever a house crumbles into dust because of a weak,unsteady foundation it is not the tenants,neighbors and their families you should blame but the negligent landlords; The facts of the matter of illegal logging being discussed are not muddled but crystal clear; The blame rests squarely on the shoulders of EBK and Maada Bio; Both men have failed the
    people of Falaba and Koinadugu miserably.

    These two men and the late Tejan Kabba also have not done a thing to safeguard our virgin forest and environment;They have been so nonchalant in their attitudes towards illegal logging because of a few dollars here and there;” For a few extra dollars more than the agreed bargaining price;”Maada Bio says;” The whole forests,animals and everything in it can be yours” Yup,our sovereignty has been sold to the highest bidders in Euros, Pounds and dollars. In my beloved Sierra Leone the only saints you can find are not Pastors or Imams but ordinary carpenters,traders and market women.(lol)

  3. It is a bad workman that blames his tools. The function of the government is to govern. That is why they put themselves up for election. They have signed a contract with the people whereby the people give them power in return for protection, good governance and development. If they cannot fulfil the above, then resignations and a new election are in order. Is the OP suggesting that we are living in a state of anarchy.

  4. Don’t blame the government for the damage done to our forests and environment. The blame squarely lies on the people themselves who are always quick to invoke their human rights violations in whatever they do.

  5. I don’t know what it takes to urge this lacklustre Bio government, to act on this environmental disaster that has been perpetuated by this illigal timber logging, that is taking place on an industrial scale in this twin districts of Koinadugu, and Fabala District. The last time I visited that part of the country, I was horrified at the level of our natural rain forest, and how of much it is disappearing under our very eyes due to the activities of illigal logging by locals, but also Guinean nationals that are crossing our porous border, and chopping up our trees and loading them on antiqued Tipper lorries, bleaching black smoke, and taking their illigal harvested Timber wood to Guinea. All this activities are taking place right under the noses of the custom check points in Musia, and further north. For all intent, and purpose, this corrupt custom officials are either complicit in facilitating this illigal trade by taking backhanders, with the promise to look the other way, or their is not enforcement procedures, and the infrastructure mechanism in place to help them monitor this illigal activities.

    There was a time when president Momoh, became do alarm with the level of smuggling both in foreign Five – Five Tobacco, and other goods, denying Sierra Leone’s treasury much needed revenue. He knew the answer by setting up the Anti – smuggling squad, headed by Gabril Mohamed T. Kai Kai. who was later implicated in the socalled vice President Francis M. Minah. The point is,you can say anything about Mr. Kai Kai, he might not be your cup of tea, but his method and tactics he deployed in tackling Smuggling at the time, was something to be proud of . His no nonsense approach,used to scare the living day lights out of cigarette smugglers.He put the fear of God in the minds of would be smugglers.

    If Bio, is serious about tackling this timber trade, and is serious in taking action against the climate emergency facing us, he needs to act now. Recently for the first time in our history in Falaba, we experienced flooding in which people lost their homes. I know this because I was approached to contribute to the rebuilding of lost homes. Bio likes to talk the talk by saying he will plant trees, to replace the ones that have been chopped. But it takes several years before those trees grow to maturity age.

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