Lawrence Williams: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 June 2020:
Sierra Leoneans should brace up for frequent thunderstorms and heavy winds this rainy season, resulting from the direct impacts of climate change on the environment.
The likely unprecedented nature in which these occurrences will take place is strongly associated with climate change and human-induced activities, such as deforestation for logging and charcoal burning, and indiscriminate construction of unplanned and uncoordinated settlements.
Sierra Leone is listed among countries most prone to experience climate change and natural disasters.
Its population of about 7.2 million is greatly at risk and remain vulnerable to major ecological threats of water shortage and food scarcity, according to scientific projections in this year’s Global Peace Index.
The GPI estimated that hundreds of millions of people worldwide will be hit by water and food insecurity by 2025, and sub-Saharan Africa would be the most affected region.
Studies show that many African countries faced food insecurity before the Covid-19 pandemic, and Sierra Leone is one among fifteen countries ranked at the bottom of the Global Food Security Index 2019.
Two of the world’s largest exporters – Kazakhstan and Vietnam – have temporarily suspended wheat flour and rice exports amid Covid-19. This may likely create shortages in countries like Sierra Leone that strongly depend on imports.
The GPI projections also suggest that extreme weather conditions are likely to cause major disruptions to industrial agriculture and water conservation. It predicts that major flooding resulting from an astronomical rise in sea levels and heat temperatures would occur in this region.
The Meteorological Agency’s seasonal forecasts last November indicated a rise in heat temperatures to about 35 – 37 degrees Celsius during the dry season, with Freetown and Makeni the hardest hit. Because this prediction in many ways turned out to be true we now turn back to the Agency to hear its predictions for the rainy season and to know whether they agree or disagree with the GPI projections.
The Agency’s Director-General, Ibrahim Sinneh Kamara, told Fritong Post that Sierra Leone would experience low rainfall in the rainy season and this will affect crop production.
“Low rainfall will affect crop production this year and farmers will suffer huge losses if the Ministry of Agriculture does not advise them on the best crops and rice varieties to plant,” he said.
Kamara asked that this information be cascaded to rural communities to help farmers better prepare for the worse.
He said the heavy winds and thunderstorms experienced lately are the attendant consequences of low rainfall but more importantly signalled that climate change projections for this region – Gulf of Guinea – are real.
Though the DG did not wholesomely agree with the entirety of the GPI projections, he however affirmed the strong belief that the conclusions contained therein cannot be overstated.
“Those people are experts in the field of Meteorological Science. But I think that we should conduct a national survey to gather more specific data, identify specific threats and come up with more concrete and realistic predictions. This will then inform policy formulation and adaptation and response plan to mitigate the risks and impact of climate change in Sierra Leone,” Sinneh Kamara stated.
Mr. Kamara further said that the massive deforestation for the construction of unplanned and uncoordinated settlements along the Freetown Peninsula, could aggravate several risk factors that could trigger a mudslide or landslide to occur in that area. He predicted that such disaster could happen in the future if regulations are not put in place now to control it.
He believes that widespread public education and awareness-raising about climate change and its consequences; strong early warning systems and effective legal frameworks can change the narrative in terms of strengthening Sierra Leone’s adaption and response mechanisms toward climate change.
The Government strategies, objectives and policy actions for disaster prevention and mitigation are clearly articulated in the National Medium-Term Development Plan.
President Bio on many occasions has affirmed his government’s commitment to protecting the environment. He told the nation in this year’s State Opening of Parliament that his government is pursuing policy actions that will bring about a change in environmental governance, forest management and ecosystem conservation.
The United Nations Environmental Programme projects that almost all sub-Saharan African countries will be water-scarce by 2025.
Sierra Leone’s Medium-Term Development Plan indicates that almost half of the population of Sierra Leone has no access to safe drinking water, and only 13 percent of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities.
The demand for water in Sierra Leone has increased considerably over the past years. The increasing demand is driven by population growth, increased economic and industrial activities.
The huge demand for water use for domestic purposes also, especially during the lockdown measures implemented by the government, has led to some communal disputes that resulted in an open confrontation between affected communities and law enforcement agencies.
One of the emergencies facing our country before the COVID-19 strike, was the relentless deforestation taking place both in the Freetown peninsula and the rural areas. Like everything in Sierra Leone, the unregulated and mafia type of timber trade is causing a lot of problems for communities in the urban and rural areas. The last government under EKB, for what ever reason payed lip service to the destruction of our rain forest. Maybe, they were too beholden to China. Most of the timber cut down are packaged and shipped to China. You just go to government wharf, and see for yourself how our corrupt custom officers allow this unregulated trade to flourish. No one takes a notice of what is going on as long as they get their cut.
Not long ago we had flooding in the Freetown peninsular, and some of the tiny communities in Sherbro island, in Bonthe district, were forced to abandon their homes because the sea wall had been breached. This climate emergency facing us is real and is going to affect all of us. When the RUF war started, a lot of people in Freetown and the North took a blind notice of it. Their selfish refrain was, it is happening in the south in Pujehun and kailahun District, it will never get to us. People were so selfish to think like that. The only time they sat down and took notice was when Valentine Strasser, Saj.Musa, Bio, Tom Nuymah, came knocking at President Momohs’s door at State House.
This government is behaving the same way – like the one before it. The gangsters that run the timber trade should be tackled head on, other wise we are storing a lot of problems for ourselves. You just drive from Freetown to Kenema, or Makeni to Falaba, and along the highways you see the level of deforestation taking place. We can’t afford to be like land locked Mali, or Chad. We need the rain forest to prevent mudslides and soil erosion. It will also help boost agricultural productivity. Less reliance on foreign food imports. The laws are there. I often wonder why we have paid environmental agency government workers. They are the ones that are suppose to be protecting our environment to prevent future disasters in our country.