World Wetlands Day 2001: Sierra Leone
Celebration of World Wetlands Day in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is endowed with rich wetlands on which many cultures, traditions and wildlife have thrived for years. However, these important resources have not been given the desired attention for protection and proper management in the past, unlike forests. Consequently, most wetlands in the country have been developed for settlements and other use. It is quite recently that wetland conservation issues have gained prominence in government quarters through the intervention of Conservation Society of Sierra Leone and the Forestry Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Marine Resources through their collaborative projects the IBA Projects and the National Waterfowl Census.
Wetland Conservation gained momentum when the Government signed the Ramsar Convention and designated the Sierra Leone River as a Ramsar Site. Sierra Leone is now 118th signatory to the Ramsar convention.
In the bid to sensitise the entire country citizenry on wetland conservation, Sierra Leone joined the rest of the world to celebrate the wetland day on 2nd February 2000. The programme for the celebration commenced on the 1st February with a nationwide radio broadcast by Hon. President of CSSL, who is the Minister of Foreign of Affairs and International Cooperation early in the morning. This was followed in the afternoon by a sensitisation march-past by school children and community-based organisations. About five hundred children from various primary and secondary schools marched through the streets of Freetown from Victoria Park to Youyi Building the building that hosts the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Marine Resources and many other Ministries. The marchers were accompanied by a school band and a cultural dance group and had placards and banners carrying short messages for wetlands conservation. Although the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Marine was out of town, the marchers were addressed by two high profile-conservationists from the Ministries.
The most important programme of the celebration was a workshop held on the 2nd February at British Council Hall for Parliamentarians and other Policy-Makers. Prof. Hector Morgan, Head of Biological Sciences Department, and Fourah Bay College chaired this. In his opening address, Prof. Morgan informed participants about the theme of the symposium and the relevance of international conventions and pointed out Sierra Leones stance in relation to the signing and ratification of three conventions and emphasised the various benefits the country will gain in adhering to the convention guidelines. He lobbied for partnership with the parliamentarians. The welcome address was delivered by Mr. Edward T. Ngandi, Honorary Treasurer on behalf of the Honorary President of the of the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone.
The workshop attracted Parliamentarians and other Policy-Makers including Law Officers Department, officer of the Government conservation agencies, CSSL and other environmental NGOs.
Papers were delivered by various speakers including: the overview of conventions on the Environment and Biodiversity signed and ratified by the Government of Sierra Leone, the Ramsar convention and its implication of Sierra Leone and the Convention for Migration species of Wild Animals and how it is related to the African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement.
The participants bordering around the significance, benefits, implementation and implication to local laws of the conventions raised many questions. The workshop ended by formulating a series of resolutions, some of which included the following:
- All relevant conventions and agreements relating to wetlands and migratory waterbirds conservation in Sierra Leone by brought to the attention of government for urgent appropriate action leading to the signing and or subsequent ratification of the said conventions.
- That Parliamentary participants sensitise other parliamentarians to solicit their support in achieving the above objective whilst the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone in collaboration with relevant government agencies take further steps to raise awareness among major stakeholders to work towards the implementation of the terms of the agreement outlined in the various agreements.
- That a strong national entity exclusively in charge of matters relating to wetland issues and mobilisation of financial support be established and a national wetland policy be developed with inputs from major stakeholders
- Members of parliament ensure the approval and payment of financial obligations of the Government to the various Conventions and agreements relating to wetlands and waterbird conservation.
A television and radio discussion programmes climaxed the days celebration. Members of the discussion team were drawn from the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone and the department of Forestry. The TV and radio programmes highlighted most of the discussion that took place in the workshop with specific emphasis on the resolutions.
The celebration ended on the 3rd February with a field trip to Aberdeen Creek and Ogoo Farm, which also commenced the waterfowl census. About 24 people participated, including students from the Njala University College and 87 members of 8 species were identified and counted. Some of which were white face ducks.